Forcing an amaryllis bulb to bloom is indoor garden magic. It’s thrilling to watch as the stalk slowly emerges. When it opens, it brings an explosion of color and drama. If you time it right, it can make a spectacular holiday centerpiece.
PLANTING AND GROWING
Amaryllis do well in cylindrical containers that allow an inch or so of soil between the bulb and the container walls and at least 1½ inches beneath the bulb for root development. A container with drainage is a must to keep the bulb from sitting in water. Pot the bulb with a high-quality potting soil—a variety with fertilizer incorporated is fine—and plant with the top third of the bulb exposed. Water well after planting and whenever the top inch or so is dry. Fertilizer is not necessary. Place the potted bulb in a sunny window and wait for it to pop. You may have to stake your flower stem to keep it from sagging. A cylindrical container helps with this by giving you ample depth to anchor a wooden or wire stake. Savor each day of the beautiful bloom.
Some gardeners like to keep their bulb and force it to bloom again the next year. It’s an easy and satisfying process. As with outdoor bulbs, let the flower stalk die back and turn brown before removing it. The stalk is feeding the bulb for next year. You will then care for your amaryllis like any other houseplant through the summer, as it forms its long, narrow leaves. Keep it watered and fertilized along with your other indoor plants.
Although amaryllis do not require a dormant period to bloom, you will need to let it go dormant to prompt it to bloom when you’d like. Three months before beginning the bloom process again, move the potted amaryllis to a cool, dark location for a month. Do not water and allow the leaves to die. After the first month, take the bulb out of its pot, remove the dried leaves and roots and store it in the refrigerator crisper drawer for two months. Do not store with other fruits and vegetables that can release gases that will affect its blooming. Four to six weeks before the desired bloom time, bring the bulb out of the refrigerator, repot with fresh soil and wait for the new blooms to appear.
Minneapolis-based Eric Johnson is a garden designer and writer. His website is gardendrama.wordpress.com.
Celosia as Cut Flowers
We have a thriving cut flower industry in Minnesota and breeders are creating varieties with long stems that are perfect for the mixed bouquets you see in local garden centers and farmers’ markets.
Here are five terrific celosias for cut flowers according to Rachael Ackerman at Blue Sky Flower Farm in Lakeville. You may have to ask for these from your favorite seed purveyor.
- Celosia ‘Chester Copperpot’ – Perfect long stems for cutting. Available from pepperharrowfarm.com.
- Celosia ‘Act Diva’ – From Evanthia Genetics in the Netherlands, a new cut flower cockscomb type with a unique copper-red color.
- Celosia Sunday™ Yellow – One of many colors from Ball Seed Co., this yellow reaches a mature height of 28 to 40 inches. Great for large bouquets!
- Celosia ‘Sylphid’ – From Japan, this lime green celosia is 30 to 36 inches in height and contrasts beautifully with other colors.
- Celosia ‘Coral Reef’ and ‘Pink Champagne’ – From Floret Flower Farm, unusual cockscomb flowers of pastel shades on very long stems. These may be a bit hard to find this year.