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Easy to grow amaryllis can delight for years

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Q: I was given an amaryllis bulb but have never grown anything like it before. Would you guide me through the process? – A.G., Albuquerque

A: Growing an amaryllis is easy, so don’t fret. And with proper seasonal care you can get the bulb to preform again and again for years.

Since you have the bulb already, next you’ll need a pot that drains, some pot shards or pebbles to cover the drainage holes, potting soil, and a saucer large enough to sit the pot on. Usually I’ve used a pot that is no more than an inch or two wider than the bulb. You don’t need to offer them a lot of room, so to speak.

OK, you’ve found the pot. Now place a shallow layer of pot shards or clean pebbles in the base of the pot. You need the pebbles to keep the soil from escaping through the bottom of the pot, keeping everything tidier. I challenge myself when potting and search for flat small stones and create a jigsaw puzzle to get a perfect fit covering the hole or holes of the pot I chosen but you don’t need to go to extremes like I’ve been known to do.

Next, fill the pot two-thirds of the way full with new potting soil. Tamp it down some as you’re filling the pot so the bulb has a firm place to sit, then using your fist gouge out a shallow depression that the bulb can anchor into. Now I want you to look at the bulb. At the base, take note of any broken roots and snip them cleanly away. Don’t remove all of that hairy root stuff just tidy them up, if necessary. Then while you’re handling the bulb if any of the dark brown skin wants to flake off you can remove it. Don’t peel the skin away just tidy up any flaking that is already coming off. You want things neat.

Looking at the bulb, notice how wide it is in the middle and I want you to think of that as the bulbs waistline. Set the bulb in the depression you’ve made in the soil and pour more potting soil around the bulb, tamping it down as you go, until you have enough soil to cover the bulb to just past its waistline keeping the neck of the bulb exposed.

Next you’ll water. I’ve always done this in the sink, so I’m sure the soil gets thoroughly drenched and the bulb gets properly seated. Pour enough water gently into the pot so the whole kit and caboodle is sitting in a puddle and leave it there for 20 minutes. That way you’re sure all of the soil is adequately wet. If the soil level sinks a lot when you offer the water, it wasn’t tamped down firmly enough around the bulb and consider adding a bit more soil so the bulb is firmly held in place. Then pick up the perfectly wet pot, drip it off and set it on the saucer you’ve gotten. Watch that it doesn’t fill with excess water, pouring any water that might have collected away, and search for the amaryllis’ new home.

Key to success will be finding a spot that will offer warmth and bright light. It’s the warmth that will convince the bulb to grow fresh roots and throw out the bloom stalk bearing the incredible bloom that will follow. You’ll want to offer water perhaps weekly so the soil is kept damp but by no means soggy or constantly sitting in a puddle of water. I’ll bet that within days you’ll see points of green appear at the top of the bulb and within weeks have an amaryllis ready to bloom its heart out for you.

See, it’s not a lot of work and know that this guide will work for most spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils, too. You’ll just want to plant several bulbs in the same pot to get a good display. Having bulbs growing indoors during the gloom of winter is always a good way to stay happy Digging In.

Need tips on growing your garden? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.