Holiday flowers are really tropical bulbs, so plant them

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This year’s amaryllis (Hippeastrum cultivars) have produced spectacular flowers for the holidays. What to do with them when the flowers fade? Plant them in the garden

This amaryllis, a Hippeastrum
cultivar, is called Papilio.

I have always loved these flowers, and now have them in beds throughout my garden. They don’t bloom at Christmas, but in the spring. Last year, some of mine began to open in February. Others waited for a couple of months. So the show is on-going.

All you need is a well-draining area of the garden that receives partial shade. I have bulbs that receive morning or afternoon light, but not midday sun.  Plant the bulbs so that the top quarter peeps out of the soil, and in a group with about a foot between each bulb for a wonderful show. While they like excellent drainage (bulbs will rot if too wet), they also like mulch and some improved soil. I seldom add organic matter to the planting hole, but I do put a little bulb food in the bottom before inserting the bulb.  (This is a 7-10-5 with 2.3 percent iron.)  However, I’ve found that the plants do nicely on palm special fertilizer that I use on most of the rest of the garden.

I don’t dig them up in the fall. They multiply well without digging. I have transplanted bulbs, and the leaves will lay flat for a couple of days before righting themselves. I noticed the other day that new leaves about 4 inches long are now appearing in my largest bulb planting, spreading on their own.

Some of the bulbs belonged to my father, and it always is a delight to have them flower every year.

Dancing Queen is a double.

Others are from a dear friend who gives them as gifts every year. Some are species, given to me by Don Evans a few years ago, and still others are those I have ordered from John Scheepers, Inc., a Connecticut company that imports large bulbs from the Netherlands.

I seldom have any problems with them, but I stay on the alert for snails in the rainy season. The succulent Hippeastrum leaves are high on the list of gourmet dining for snails and slugs. Grasshoppers go for them as well. There is a fungal disease called leaf scorch that may discolor leaves and attack the bulbs, but with enough sunlight, this seldom occurs.