Growing Green: Try indoor gardening
The weather may be cold, but your green thumb is still itching.
What can you do? You can still do some gardening, even at this time of the year: indoor gardening.
We see amaryllis being sold every fall in the local grocery store or garden center. They look great, but are they easy to grow? As with any plant, give it the right conditions and some TLC and you’ll reap the rewards.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum hydrid) is a bulb plant that originates in South America. It reaches a height of 18 to 36 inches. There are miniature varieties. It has two to six large, bell-shaped flowers per stalk. The flowers come in a variety of colors, such as red, pink, orange, salmon and bi-color.
Some amaryllis can be purchased already potted. Follow the package directions for water and light conditions. If you want more variety, you can purchase bulbs and pot them. It takes about 8 to 12 weeks from planting to blossom time.
Late November to mid-December is a good time to start potting to obtain mid-winter color. Plant one bulb in a clay or plastic pot with drainage holes. The pot should be one to two inches larger in diameter than the bulb base since most bulbs thrive under slightly root-bound conditions.
Use well-drained, sterilized potting medium containing equal parts of peat and perlite. When planting the bulb, be sure that one-third to one-half of the bulb tip (or nose) is above the potting surface.
Water your plant immediately after planting, taking care not to get the bulb nose wet to avoid any fungal diseases. It is important to keep the soil slightly moist and only water when the soil surface is dry.
Once flowering occurs, water regularly about once a week. Fertilization with a soluble fertilizer for potted plants is recommended. This can be used at full strength twice a month starting when the plant produces foliage.
Place your amaryllis in a warm 70-75 degree Fahrenheit, well-lit room with at least four hours of direct sunlight. These conditions help to form roots and foliage and encourage blooms.
As the plant begins to grow, staking may be necessary. Rotate the plant every few days to prevent the stem from leaning toward the light. Once the flowers bloom, you can move your plant to a cooler 55-65 degree Fahrenheit room with indirect sunlight to prolong the life of your blossoms.
As the blossoms fade, remove them to prevent seed formation. After the stalk is yellow and dry, cut the stalk at the base of the bulb. Keep the pot in a window with full sun and continue to keep the pot well-watered and fertilized.
In September, move the amaryllis to a cool 55-degree Fahrenheit dark area and discontinue watering and fertilizing for approximately 8 to 12 weeks.
The leaves will yellow and wither and can be removed. When the flower bud emerges from the soil, add fresh potting soil, if needed, and place in a sunny area. You can begin watering your plant again and should have blossoms within 8 to 12 weeks.
Spotted Lanternfly Update: Be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly egg masses. For information on what to look for and how to destroy the eggs:
“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.