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‘Forced’ bulbs can be saved, used again next fall

Q. Using your guidance, I “forced” amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs during the holidays. It was wonderful watching the growth, and most of all, how easy it was to have these lovely plants indoors. Now the paperwhites have finished blooming, and the leaves are very long. The stalk holding the amaryllis flower is yellowing and getting lazy droopy. So, what do I do with these plants now? – E.G., Albuq.

A. You have two options. First would be pitch the plants. Harsh sounding, I know, but if you don’t want to tend them or have the room, that might be the way to go. Or you can keep them, making them welcome additions to both your outdoor landscaping and indoor houseplant collection.

Let’s tackle the amaryllis first. To begin you’ll want to cut out that yellowing bloom stalk. Snip out that stalk as close to the bulb as you possibly can without cutting any of the plant’s leaves. The leaves are needed to re-feed the bulb. With the stalk removed, you might consider potting the bulb into a pot that is a smidgen larger than its “forcing” container is originally. Meaning, if it’s in a 4- to- 5-inch pot, find one that is a wee bit larger, remembering that the pot must drain. Don’t go nuts offering it too much room though.

Sprinkle a shallow layer of pebbles or potshards into the new container and then fill about a third full of fresh potting soil. Unpot the bulb and give the roots a good look see. Any black, squishy roots need to be trimmed away. If there is a large amount of healthy, fleshy roots they could be trimmed so the bulb would fit with more ease. If the roots are trimmed, you’ll need to lay the bulb down for 6- to- 12-hours so the clipped ends seal before continuing.

Now that the bulb is ready, set it on the soil layer and gradually pour in fresh soil, tamping it down as you go to cement the bulb in the pot. Aim to keep the bulb at the same depth it was used to. After you’ve gotten it all snugged down, take the whole kit and caboodle to the sink.

With the stopper in, gently allow tepid water to pour over the soil. Once you’re confident the fresh soil is completely dampened allow the pot an hour to sit in the sink. If you need to add a little more soil because of compaction go ahead, just being sure it also gets wet.

Take the pot out of the sink, let it drip off, then set it in a clean saucer. The freshly planted amaryllis will want to live in a brightly lit, fairly warm spot in your home.

The green strap leaves will feed the bulb and make a striking green display for months to come.

Come July you’ll gradually slow the watering and by September those leaves will be snipped away allowing the bulb a rest period before you re-pot and awaken the bulb for the next round of amazing bloom for the 2020 holidays. It’s really easy so don’t get intimidated.

For the paperwhites it’s nearly the same process. Cut out the spent bloom stalk, and if you need to, cut the leaf length down by at least half.

De-pot the bulbs from their forcing pot, making sure to dislodge any of the pebbles or marbles you used that might be clustered amongst the roots.

Give the roots a trim, allow them to sit a bit to seal, then plant them in a draining pot with fresh soil amended with a bit of a slow release fertilizer. Treat them as you would a house plant and then in mid-spring plant them out in a flower bed. The leaves will re-feed the bulbs, go dormant this fall and Mother Nature willing, should bloom again for you in the spring of 2021.

I’ve had some that insist on blooming in the fall every year, never being able to re-clock themselves to become a spring bloomer but that’s okay with me!

Revitalizing forced bulbs is always rewarding so give these processes a whirl and keep on Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.

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