Questions on: Amaryllis

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: I have propagated some seeds from a flowering amaryllis. Two of the seeds rooted and formed leaves, but have died back. This is their second year and one of them has formed more leaves than last year. I am not sure if and when they will flower, but I am prepared to wait. Is there anything I can do to encourage them? I haven’t changed the compost or the size of the pots because I am not sure if that is the right thing to do. (e-mail reference)

A: Let them stay where they are. When warm weather settles in, set them outside on an eastern or northern exposure close to the house. Allow them to dry down this fall. More directions are available at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h811w.htm.


Q: This label says "Pink Giant Amaryllis Indoor Blooming Kit," with the copyrighted brand name of Bloom Rite. The price was $19.99. It comes in a kit containing a glass or ceramic hurricane-type vase and little, polished river stones. Ostensibly, the amaryllis roots are supposed to grow around and through the little stones. What they actually do is sit on the surface of the stones. The instructions tell me to change the water as needed. If the water level stays the same, how would you know when the water needs changing? Also, the water sits and gets stale. The one I received for Christmas is a dwarf. I planted it in dirt after the blooms faded and it's struggling to survive. It has an underdeveloped root system. The leaves are growing a little, but they are a healthy green. It also has three seeds pods, which I've never had before. I'm giving it fertilizer every two weeks. After the snow is shoveled, I want to go to the nursery and get some rooting powder. I've never used any, but I have a feeling I'm going to need some. If this dwarf will survive, I want to plant my mother's dwarf in dirt. (e-mail reference)

A: These so-called water-blooming kits are a bad idea! If the water cannot drain from the media, it will become stagnant quickly. The container should have some holes in it to facilitate drainage. When future kits arrive as a gift, assuming you can't or won't try talking her out of it, forget the container it arrives in and plant the bulb in a pot with drainage and sterile soil. It should respond beautifully. Also, if you allow seed pods to form after blooming, much of the energy the plant produces through photosynthesis goes into making the seed and not roots or new growth. I suggest removing the flower as soon as it is spent.


Q: I enjoy your blog on growing amaryllis. I have a comment and a question. For the past couple of years, my girlfriend has given my mother and me an amaryllis bulb for Christmas. To my chagrin, she buys the kind that's to be grown in water! I don't have the heart to tell her that I hate that system. Therefore, I wait until the blooms have faded and then plant them in dirt with fertilizer and water. Am I doing this right? (e-mail reference)

A: I must be living in a cave because I've never seen an amaryllis grown in water. However, from what you have told me, it sounds as if you are doing everything right after the bloom is past. Have the results been what you want them to be? (The response is below.)


Q: Your recent column on amaryllis was interesting. After my plants were done blooming, I let them dry off in a basement and then planted them in the ground in a partly shaded, raised flower bed in May. I watered them on occasion and gave them plant food a couple times. I lifted them and shook off most of the soil before frost and placed them on a 60-degree basement floor. The bulbs were not overly large. When I noticed growth after Christmas, I planted them in a low 10-inch bowl. In less than a month, they bloomed. Two sent up two blossom stems with four blooms per stem. Another plant only had one stem, but with five blossoms. In all, there were 21 blossoms, 17 at one time on three bulbs. The flowers were all the same color, which I appreciated. Strong, upright leaves also appeared with the flower stems, but were not as tall as the flower stems. I had to share my experience because there seems to be many ways to deal with amaryllis bulbs. Needless to say, I will repeat last year’s planting procedures. (Red Lake Falls, Minn.)

A: Thanks for the nice letter on your tender, loving care techniques with these beautiful bulbs. The readers will appreciate you sharing this with them and so do I! Keep up the green thumb work.


Q: I have two questions I hope you can answer. I purchased two amaryllis bulbs in early December. Both bloomed beautifully. After the blooms died, the foliage lost its color, bent over and broke. I cut off the foliage, leaving about 6 inches. After reading your Web site, I think I did the wrong thing! Any suggestions on what to do? Also, I received a large pot of amaryllis bulbs as a gift in late December. Each bulb has grown differently. Some only have foliage ranging from a foot tall to just above the dirt. One plant has two blooms and another has no foliage. Should I split these bulbs into different pots? When should I do the splitting? (e-mail reference)

A: There isn't much that can be done for the amaryllis that lost most of its foliage. I doubt that it ever will rebloom for you. If you are an extremely patient and loving person toward plants, you just might succeed in a couple of years. Removing the food-making structures of the bulb does a pretty good job of putting the final nail in the coffin. As for the other bulbs, I would suggest allowing them to run the course of whatever is going on with them. After that, allow them to dry down this summer. Begin watering again in early fall and see if they bloom for you or at least improve somewhat. There is a lot of variation in these beautiful bulbs, so it is hard to make accurate predictions for the future. For information on amaryllis bulb culture, go to http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h811.pdf.


Q: I bought an amaryllis kit and followed all the instructions. I planted the bulb the second week of November. The plant has large fronds that look like a small palm tree, but no stalk with a flower has sprouted. The pot is ceramic and has no drainage. I've kept it moist, but refrained from using fertilizer because the instructions didn't call for it. The plant is inside and facing a brightly lit window. The house temperature is 65 to 70 degrees. I've grown these before with success using a kit. What's wrong this time? (e-mail reference)

A: The flower bud was never set or developed, so you get the vegetative growth your plant is exhibiting. There is nothing you can do about it now, unless you want to exhibit extreme patience to see if you can get it to bloom around this time next year. If it were up to me, I would dump the bulb and look for another one or wait and take a chance again next year. For cultural information on the amaryllis, go to http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h811.pdf.


Q: I gave an indoor amaryllis blooming kit to my friend. It is growing fast, but when the buds open up, she says a horrible smell comes out of them. She had to remove the plant from her house. Are these plants supposed to have an odor or any kind of smell? I was told it would not have an odor when I purchased it. (e-mail reference)

A: Most amaryllis flowers do not have a scent. Some of the new hybrids are bred with a scent that some people find offensive, which your friend obviously did. Since the scented amaryllis flowers are a relatively new marketing ploy, it is something that most retailers are not up to speed on. Eventually, they will begin marking on the plant the type of scent it will produce.


Q: I bought an amaryllis plant about a month ago. It has long, healthy leaves, but it has not produced a new stalk or flowers. It looks like the stalk is still very small and not growing. I am not sure what I’m doing wrong. The plant gets lots of sunlight and I do not believe I am overwatering it. I have two friends who got amaryllis plants and both of them have produced flowers. Could it be that I didn't plant the bulb deep enough? Any advice at this point would be helpful. (e-mail reference)

A: It is very likely that you did not cause the problem. There is probably something genetically wrong with the bulb. I would take it back or throw it out and get another one to enjoy. Generally, once these bulbs begin producing the flower stalk, it takes a major event to keep them from producing a flower!


Q: I was watering my red amaryllis this morning and noticed tiny, white mite-looking bugs crawling around the soil. Any idea what these are and if they should be gotten rid of? The plant appears to be healthy. (e-mail reference)

A: The bugs are probably fungus gnats that are feeding on the organic matter in the soil. Usually, the bugs are nothing to worry about.


Q: Is your publication, "Amaryllis Care in the Home," available for download? If not, how can I get a copy? (e-mail reference)

A: The publication is available at www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h811.pdf. Thanks for the interest!


Q: My mother gave me a beautiful amaryllis bulb for Christmas. Now my mother-in-law is jealous. She and I share plants and flowers through the year. I was wondering if there was any way to split the bulb. I have one bulb, but the bulb has six to nine flowers on three different stems. I know the seeds will produce, but that will take years for them to grow and germinate. (e-mail reference)

A: Nothing worse than a jealous in-law! Allow the plant to go through the blooming cycle and the foliage to remain through the summer. Bring it inside before the first cold snap in the fall. Allow the plant to dry down to mimic its native conditions. When all the foliage is dead and before you repot it again in 30 to 45 days, take the bulb out of the pot. There should be three to four small bulbs around the side of the mother bulb. You can separate those and give them to your mother-in-law. Both of you probably will have to wait a couple of years before you get any flowers. If this doesn't please her, just give it to her. Better to have peace than animosity in the family. You can always get another plant.


Q: I have three amaryllis bulbs that I purchased two years ago. They bloomed right after I purchased them. I let them grow outside during the summer. They bloomed again in July of the same year, which surprised me. I let them rest and then put them outside all summer last year. I left them out until it was very cold at night and then put them in the fridge for five weeks. I brought them out again, but they are just growing leaves without any flowers. What did I do wrong? (e-mail reference)

A: You ran out of patience. Wait a year to build up carbohydrates in the bulb. Then go through the same process to see if they will bloom for you.


Q: I have a question about my amaryllis plant. I purchased a bulb and was surprised that it grew. I planted it inside and was amazed at how beautiful it is. After the blooms die, what should I do? Should I cut it down and save the bulb until next year or can I cut it back and let it continue to grow? (e-mail reference)

A: Glad you had such success with your amaryllis bulb, but most people do! What you need to do is allow the foliage to remain and keep the bulb moderately watered through the winter. Give the plant as much light as possible. When spring arrives and the frost warnings are past, set the bulb outdoors (still in the pot) and allow it to flourish through the summer. At the end of August, bring it indoors and withhold further watering. Allow the foliage to die down and then remove it. Let the bulb stay that way for about eight weeks, then bring it into a well-lit room and start watering. If the bulb has stored enough energy during the previous months, it should produce another flowering cycle. If it hasn’t stored enough energy, it only will produce straplike leaves. To view previous questions and answers on amaryllis bulbs, go to my Web site at
www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/flowers/amaryllis.htm. You will find a lot of information that can guide you in the care of this beautiful, flowering bulb!


Q: I have an amaryllis plant that I put outside after it bloomed and took in again last fall. The blooms have faded, so I will cut off the blooms, but not the leaves. Can I harvest the seeds and produce new plants? If possible, I would like to try it! I think I see the seeds in pods by the withered blooms. (Moorhead, Minn.)

A: Yes, you can sow the seeds. They will germinate for you, if you don’t bury them too deeply. Barely cover the seeds. In addition, the mother bulb should be producing offshoot bulbs, so be sure to divide them and plant those as well. For the seed, expect it to take about five years to bloom. The offshoot bulbs will bloom in three years or less.


Q: My amaryllis has produced a seedpod. What suggestions do you have to improve germination? (e-mail reference)

A: Sow the seeds, but barely cover them and keep them moist, but not soggy. Keep the seeds at room temperature. The resulting plants should flower for you in three to four years.


Q: For the first time, I purchased an amaryllis for Christmas. It was advertised as a pink- blooming plant. It had two main stalks and one small stalk. The first two stalks produced four beautiful white blossoms and the third stalk finally opened with two blooms. It really showed off, with 10 blooms in all! (e-mail reference)

A: Congratulations! Who cares if the color is a little off? It sounds like it was a photographic event! Enjoy and thanks for sharing!


Q: I have been interested in your discussion regarding amaryllis plants. I thought they always rebloomed. I have several that bloom every year. After the last frost in the spring, I plant them in my garden and water when needed. I dig them up in the fall and let the tops dry down. I store them in my fruit room until after Christmas, when I feel the need for color in my home. I pot them and they usually grow blossom shoots within 10 days. This year I forgot them, but I potted them a week ago and they already are sending up shoots. I also have some new ones starting from the little bulbs that form on the bottoms. I have heard that they need a lot of fertilizer while in the house, so I give them Shultz when watering them weekly. I thought I’d comment on them because they are a beautiful flower. I have had five to seven blooms on a stalk and a couple of times a plant has sent two stalks up to bloom. (e-mail reference)

A: You are doing what is recommended. Everybody else claims to follow the same basic procedure, but mostly to no avail, as you have read. Thanks for giving me a success story to publish. I’m sure it will breed inspiration and despair at the same time!


Q: Where would I find the seeds on my amaryllis plant? I have heard that they are on the pod, but I honestly do not know where the pod is. I have removed the last flower from my plant and thought the pod was the bulge immediately below where the flower starts. That part is now shriveled and dried. Is this where the seeds are contained? If so, am I too late to harvest them? (e-mail reference)

A: You are right on target. The shrunken pod is where mature seeds are harbored. Open the pod over white butcher (or similar) paper and then plant the seeds. Expect to wait three or more years before the seeded plants will be mature enough to flower.


Q: I was rather baffled by your recent reference that amaryllis is an aggravating plant. I have had an amaryllis for more than 20 years and never have had a season that it didn’t bloom. After the last frost, I set it outside in an area where it gets half-day sun. I water it regularly, but do not fertilize. Prior to first frost in the fall, I bring it inside and keep it in a cool, dark closet. I bring it out after six to eight weeks and a few weeks later it produces the blossom stems. The plant has produced many offsets. When the plant gets too large for the pot, I dig it up and break off the offsets. I put the offsets in pots and give them away. One year I forgot about the plant and didn’t bring it out of storage until late June. It had beautiful blossoms in July! I find amaryllis to be extremely dependable and easy to grow. (e-mail reference)

A: Thanks for sharing your amaryllis success story! I’m glad that you have had such good fortune for so many years. Your techniques will be passed on to the readers of this column. Perhaps I then will get fewer inquiries as to why their plant failed to produce a flowering stalk.


Q: I’m growing two amaryllis bulbs. The emerging growth was a healthy, bright green, but after it was exposed for a short period, it started turning a reddish brown. Could this be caused by low temperatures at night? Too much or too little exposure to the sun? (e-mail reference)

A: It could be a cultivar characterization. As long as the plant is healthy, I wouldn’t worry about it. After the initial growth, the plant needs have bright interior light and household temperatures in the mid-60 to mid-70 degree range. If you have them in the kitchen or living room with normal, indirect light and household lighting, that is all that is required. When you are attempting to get it to rebloom, then it needs more light. Summering it outdoors would do the trick. Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h811w.htm for more information on amaryllis care.


Q: I received several amaryllis plants four years ago. They all bloomed the first year, then only four bloomed the next year. Last year only two bloomed and this year only one. I have cut off the bloom stem each time they bloomed. I set them out on the back porch when the danger of frost is gone. They sit in an area that does not get direct sun. I stop watering them in August when the foliage dies. I put them in the basement, where it is cool, for about three months.
Why do I get nice green foliage and no blooms? (e-mail reference)

A: You are doing better than average at getting these bulbs to rebloom! Go to this Web site, www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h811w.htm and read my bulletin on amaryllis. I have had very mixed luck with getting them to rebloom. I gave up after a couple of years trying. Get another plant; it saves a lot of aggravation!


Q: I have an amaryllis that has a few pods. It’s going to give me seeds, but one of the pods is turning yellow. Should I cut the pod so that the plant will have more food for the other pods or just let it be? Also, I’ve done a lot of reading about the amaryllis plant. In one article, the author says you can put amaryllis bulbs in a cold area such as your fridge (not the freezer) when it’s rest time, but you should not have any apples in the fridge or else the bulb will never produce flowers. Why is that? (e-mail reference)

A: The yellowing of an amaryllis pod indicates approaching maturity. If you wish to have seeds to sow, allow them to mature. If you don’t want seeds to sow, remove the pods. To keep this process from draining the plant’s energy, the flower should be removed when it begins to fade. That will keep it from making seeds in the first place. Apples give off ethylene gas, which is a growth regulator. Apples in a bag also can be used to accelerate the ripening of other fruit. Apples also can accelerate bromeliads to flower if both are placed in a plastic bag and the top tied.


Q: Could you send me instructions on how to plant amaryllis seeds? I have several amaryllis that have seed heads on them that I would like to plant. I also need to know what type of soil to use. (e-mail reference)

A: I don't have any instructions, so just use common sense. Don't plant them too deep, just barely cover them with soil and keep them warm and moist in full sunlight or artificial light.


Q: I have some white and some red amaryllis. This year when they bloomed they were all white. Do different colored amaryllis need to be planted separately or can they be planted near each other? The only thing I have been able to figure out is that they have cross-pollinated and become one color. (E-mail reference)

A: Obviously something happened that got them to revert to white flowers. It could be that only the white amaryllis flowered. It could be that they crossed and the white flower is the dominant gene or they set seed and only the white seed was viable and germinated. It’s possible the red was a sport (chimera) and it was lost or destroyed with the reflowering. Finally, the red amaryllis may have died and only the white survived and flowered.


Q: I am writing to you regarding an amaryllis flower. I planted it according to the instructions on the box. When the leaves withered I allowed the bulb to rest and go dormant. The instructions said to stop watering and store the bulb, pot and all, away from light in a cool, dry area. The following season I repotted the bulb using fresh soil. However, it is now January and it has not started to grow. I watered it well when I planted it, yet the old leaves that show still look green but don't grow. Can you tell me what I did wrong with this plant? (Milnor, N.D.)

A: You may have kept it too moist during the rest period. Allow it to dry until the foliage loses color. Then let it sit that way, barely watering it once a month, for two to three months. At the end of that period, water normally to encourage new growth. If this doesn't work, dump it and get a new one.


Q: I am researching the amaryllis plant for a school project but I can’t seem to find anything about its life cycle. Can you help? (E-mail reference)

A: The amaryllis is a tropical bulb native to the Peruvian Andes. Botanically, it is known as hippeastrum spp. of which there are many hybrids. To brighten the interior of our homes, we like to have them come into bloom around the Christmas holidays or sometime during our long winter months. The bulb is ready to bloom when it’s purchased. Simply adding a little water will usually do the trick. A single bulb can produce as many as three flowers at one time. Once pollinated, seedpods form rapidly. They mature within four or five weeks. The pods should be picked as soon as they turn yellow and begin splitting open. Remove the seed from the pod and allow it to dry for a few days before planting. In three or four years you may have a bulb that will produce a flower. The mother bulb should then be allowed to produce the strap-like leaves that produce carbohydrates for the next flowering sequence. To help the process, place the bulb outdoors during the summer in a semi-shady location. Bring the plant inside in the fall before frost and allow the leaves to die down by withholding water. New growth should appear a few months later. If enough carbohydrates were stored the previous summer, it will flower. Repeat the cycle if it doesn’t flower. In its native habitat, this cycle occurs naturally, which is rainy periods followed by dry periods.


Q: My Amaryllis has produced seed pods which I would like to plant but am not sure when to do it. Should the pods dry on the stems or should you cut them and let them dry first? (E-mail reference)

A: Allow them to dry on the stems. That way you know they have reached full maturity.


Q: I bought an amaryllis in honor of my late Mom. It produced two flower stems. One stem produced three flowers while the second stem produced five flowers. The flowers have faded and so has the foliage. I removed the bulb from the soil and after cleaning it with warm water, found a bulblet on the corner bottom. Is it possible for me to cut this bulblet off to start a new plant for next year? The bulblet does not have roots attached to it. (E-mail reference)

A: You should have allowed the foliage to remain through the summer and then backed off on the watering to allow the foliage to die down. The foliage is the source of food for rebuilding the mother bulb and the bulblet you found. You can plant the bulblet and allow it to leaf out, going through the wet/dry cycle I just described. In about two years or so you should get a flower or two. If you haven't thrown away the mother bulb, replant it and get it to refoliate to build carbohydrate stores for future flowering.


Q: My problem is with my amaryllis. It grew, bloomed, and now I have long leaves. My problem is the time of year in relation to its internal calendar. It's January and I haven't seen a bloom since last February. I recently stopped watering it but now the leaves are limp. It is usually in a south-facing window. I'm not sure if I should be bringing it to dormancy in cool, dark place or keep watering it until it decides to die back. (E-mail reference)

A: I couldn't determine from your e-mail whether or not you had allowed it to die down in the fall for about 6-8 weeks (dormancy) and began watering it after that period. Keep in mind that amaryllis is a tropical plant. It goes from a rainy to dry season (dormancy). It reblooms when the rains return. If you allow it to dry down as I have suggested, you may get it to bloom. If not, dump it and begin anew. It isn't worth the frustration.


Q: I bought a kit with an amaryllis bulb, pot and dirt. I followed all the directions that came with the kit. I purchased the kit on Nov. 20, 2002 and it is the same as when I planted it. What did I do wrong? (E-mail reference)

A: Likely nothing. You probably have a non-living bulb. I would take it back.


Q: I recently received a boxed amaryllis bulb kit. When I opened it, I found that the bulb had already begun sprouting. It has grown to about 6 inches tall and there is a bloom-looking thing on top. Unfortunately everything is white. Will it recover or is it useless? I also recently bought a cyclamen. It just finished blooming so I cut off all the old blooms. Is it possible to keep it growing without letting it dry out? (Vermillion, S.D.)

A: In answer to both of your questions, I don’t know. Your reference to everything is white leads me to believe that it is moldy. Gently squeeze the bulb to see if it is still firm. If it is, there is a chance it will recover. The white stuff could just be a surface mildew that may not be lethal to the bulb. If the bulb is mushy, then you might as well dump it, unless it is continuing to grow for you. Frankly, I have never grown a cyclamen after blooming so I don't know what the results would be. My references tell me that watering should be withheld and the pot placed on its side in a cool spot and kept dry until midsummer. Then repot using fresh potting soil and begin the process of watering and fertilizing. You might try what you are suggesting to see what the results would be. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Q: I purchased two large amaryllis bulbs in October, potted them, and they grew to about 20 inches tall and each produced two stalks with four or five large red blooms each at Christmas time. Soon after blooming, the leaves began to yellow slightly, loose their structure, and fall, causing them to break off at the base. One now has no leaves left, but has a healthy root formation. The other has three sick leaves. Should I try to encourage new growth or allow them to go dormant. Do I remove them from the pot, and if so what do I do with all of the roots? (E-mail reference)

A: They are going dormant; let them be as they are. Set them out this summer and water them well. They will break new growth, and if sufficient energy is stored, they may flower again for you this December. Once you bring them inside again in the fall, allow them to die down again for about six weeks, then begin watering again to see if you get any blooms.


Q: I read your comments on amaryllis seeds. For the first time in five years, I also got some flat, black, wing-shaped things from a bulb like growth on a flower stalk. Are these useless, or can they be successfully planted? (E-mail reference)

A: Not useless. They are bulbills. Plant them, and in a few years they will be big and beautiful and able to then produce some flowers.


Q: What determines what height an amaryllis stem will grow to before it blooms? (E-mail reference, Philadelphia, P.A.)

A: They typically grow 18 to 24 inches, or more in some cases, so you want to locate it on a table where it will have room to stretch to that height. Once open, they are fantastically beautiful! I just wish they would last a little longer.


Q: I planted my amaryllis outside last summer, brought it in this fall and replanted it in a large container in November. Now it has four extremely long, healthy leaves, but no sign of a bloom stem. Why isn't it blooming? (New Rockford, N.D.)

A: The reason for not blooming is not enough energy. The green healthy leaves are helping to supply the bulb that
energy for future bloom. Allow the leaves to stay on until they die down naturally. Allow the soil to stay almost
completely dry until growth begins again, which hopefully will result in a flowering stalk this time.


Q: Can you tell me what is wrong with my amaryllis? Are there spiders webs on it or is it too much sun or water? (Rolette,.D.)

A: The amaryllis foliage looks as if the plant got too much water. Let it dry between waterings and it should be OK. As the winter wears on, the plant's foliage will likely decline. Allow it to do so without worry, giving it good, strong, indirect light. You can then summer it outdoors after all frost danger has past.


Q: We received an amaryllis plant for Christmas last year and it grew really well and had two beautiful flowers. After it finished flowering we put it in the basement and brought it out on the first of December this year. It started growing nicely, up to 10 inches tall and the two leaves started to droop. I put a small stick in there and tied them up. I then gave it a Jobe's plant food spike, but it doesn't seem to be helping it much. It is still green, but it doesn't seem to be growing any more. Can you please tell me what is wrong with my plant? (Gettysburg, S.D.)

A: The plant food spikes will do little good. I'd suggest their removal. The plant is making its own "food" via the green leaves on it now. Keep on doing what you are currently doing until summer. Then allow it to dry down for the summer and early fall, and bring it out again in November. Follow the same procedure you established this year. If you're fortunate, it will bloom. Refer to "Amaryllis Care in the Home" (H811), a publication of the NDSU Extension Service.


Q: I was shipped an amaryllis in the mail. When it arrived, it had already grown the blossom shoot and then it rotted off. Can I just let it go dormant and then start watering it again to get it to bloom again this year? Will it grow a new blossom shoot? (Underwood, N.D.)

A: Since the bulb had arrived sprouted to the point of rotting, I would go back to the source, explain to them what happened and ask to have it replaced. Most reputable firms will do this to maintain customer satisfaction. Since the bulb had rotted, I seriously doubt that you would be able to get successful regrowth without disease problems.


Q: I'm wondering why my amaryllis chose not to bloom this year. (Mitchell, S.D.)

A: The amaryllis will bloom when it has accumulated enough energy to do so. Be patient. Let it stay in leaf through the summer, then get it into dormancy this fall. It should bloom for you after that.


Q. Enclosed is a leaf from an amaryllis. It has been doing very well, bloomed beautifully, then developed this leaf problem recently. It has been fertilized with a fish emulsion fertilizer. Could too-cold water be the cause of this type of injury? Sometimes the plants are watered with leftover ice water that has been carried to and from work, but it has never hurt any of the other plants.  I just planted the amaryllis bulbs outdoors for the summer. When is the proper time to take them in and let them rest before repotting? (Braddock, N.D.)

A. Watering with leftover ice-water is not good for amaryllis. It is a tropicalloves warmth and mild. Summering it outdoors will be a big help. Take them in well ahead of the first frostLabor Day weekend.


Q. My amaryllis grew to 28 inches and had eight blossoms on two stalks. Out of one of the blossoms a 6-inch small stalk grew and developed three bulb-like bulbs. I am enclosing a picture. Since I took the picture, the globes have opened and the black flakes (enclosed in paper towel) appeared and fell out. What are they?  Will you explain what they are and of what use they are. Thank you in advance for your help. (Sykeston, N.D.)

A. Thank you for the photo and question. The amaryllis, like any other flowering plant, attempts to complete seed production to perpetuate the species. Apparently, your plant lacks that ability, and instead produces somatic, or non-sexual tissue. What you sent were flower petals that had developed in place of the seed. Simply a genetic aberration and an interesting point to discuss. This plant is limited to asexual reproduction only, by producing bulb offsets, which will very likely behave in the same manner.


Q. I never miss your helpful hints and have learned much. Since I have put my Christmas and Easter cactuses outside during summer they have blossomed much more. My Christmas cactus has been in blossom since December 1 for the second time.  I am having a problem with my amaryllis bulbs. I plant them in the garden over summer, water them with Miracle-Gro and they are all sending up two-blossom stalks now indoors. The problem is on three of the six bulbs. One stalk has a line of rust causing the stalk to be short, but it has four blossoms on it while the other stalk is normal. Is there anything I can do to get rid of the rust? Thanks. (Robinson, N.D.)

A. Thank you for the kind words about the column.

Concerning your amaryllis problem, it sounds like the one bulb has become infected with a virus, something that was likely picked up over the summer months outdoors. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to rid that bulb of the virus. What you could do is allow that one to set seed, then sow that and see if the seedlings are virus-free. You might succeed!

I have enclosed extension publication H811, "Amaryllis Care in the Home," for further information. Others may get this publication from county offices of the NDSU Extension Service.


Q. Thank you for your help before. If I get to Fargo, I hope my son can help me find you and show you a couple of plants. It seems like there are little spiders, but my vision is slipping (at 91 that happens, they say) so I can't quite know. Red spots occur and then the leaf turns yellow and dries up on the calla and several amaryllis plants. I don't water and feed the plants as well as I should. Actually, I should dispose of most of them. The Christmas cactus is 67 years old and a gift from my Mother and most plants are gifts. Have you suggestions for what to do with tuberous begonias? It's too windy here to hang them out.Thank you. We read all your comments and learn from them. (Rolette, N.D.)

A. Wow, 91 and still going strong--nice to have you around and asking questions. Calla and amaryllis need an annual rest period. Allow the foliage to dry down and the plants to stay dormant for about six weeks. Then repot, place in a sunny location and water. It appears you are fighting a natural tendency of the plant to shut down. Christmas cactus is a jungle species as well and needs to go through a wet/dry cycle with growth and need for abundant water from spring to fall. When flowering is over, allow the top part of the soil to dry before watering again. During active growth, they need a tomato-type fertilization on a regular basis.Try tuberous begonias as pot or bedding plants.Thanks for writing.


Q: I have several amaryllis bulbs, some of which I've gotten to rebloom over the years. I put them outside all summer and fertilize, then stop watering and let the leaves fall off, then put them in the dark for several months. But this year, the leaves didn't drop off. Should I cut the leaves off and put the plants in the dark? Or just put them in the dark as is? Or what? (E-mail reference, Bismarck, N.D.)

A: I would suggest taking the amaryllis as is, and storing it in the dark. The fact that you've gotten some to rebloom is a credit to your green thumb. Keep up the good work!


Q: How can we get amaryllis bulbs to grow larger instead of multiplying? We already have 40 and don't need any more. (E-mail reference)

A: Good question. I think size is a matter of hybridization more than anything else. I suggest picking a couple of your largest 40, grow them to flowering, cross one with the other, collect the seeds, sow again, and repeat the process until you are satisfied with the size. Now you know why hybrids cost more!


Q: I planted my amaryllis in a pot without any drainage. (I bought it as a kit--the bulb and the pot). The bulb has just started growing. What shall I do now? Shall I let it grow or shall I replant it? (E-mail reference)

A: If you bought it as a "kit" and it is now growing, let it be. Water sparingly to keep from wilting, and when the flower fades, allow the foliage to remain and plant the bulb outdoors for the summer. Then allow the foliage to die down in the early fall, give it about a six-week rest period with no water, then begin watering sparingly until new growth is evident, then repot in a free-draining container.


Q: My neighbor just gave me a lovely red amaryllis. It is blooming wonderfully. My concern is what I should do with the flower after it is spent and begins to dry. Should I just wait or pinch it off? Also, I would like to know if this plant is dangerous for dogs to consume should a petal accidentally fall off and I not see it. I have a mini schnauzer I call "Mr. Mischief" because he gets into everything. (E-mail reference)

A: The leaves are not poisonous or toxic; the bulb itself is, so let's hope your mini schnauzer doesn't decide to gnaw on the bulb. In my opinion, it shouldn't be a problem. Once the flower has withered, cut the stalk back and allow the strap-like leaves to remain. Move the plant outdoors this summer, then at the end of August, bring it inside and allow it to dry down in a cool, dark location like your basement. About six to eight weeks later, bring it nto the light again and begin watering sparingly until new growth is observed. From that point on water regularly and enjoy.


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