What Do I Do Now?

The holidays are over and you are either relieved or deeply satisfied. What about your plants? I know that you have taken proper care of your poinsettias. You did read last month's column?

Aah....but some friends gave you an amaryllis bulb. You planted it in a pot making sure to leave the top part of the bulb exposed. You took care watering and turned the pot so the flower stalk would grow straight.

Success! You grew beautiful flowers. What do you do now that the flowers are fading? Please don't say “Throw it out!”. With proper care you can have that amaryllis rebloom year after year. You can collect them as I do. Amaryllis come in many different colors, patterns, shades, heights, and even flower form.

So what do you need to do? Keep in mind that a bulb contains a preformed flower. After the flower has emerged the bulb must be replenished in order for this whole process to occur again. Don't cut off the leaves after the plant has flowered!!! Given sunlight and water the leaves carry on the process of photosynthesis and the bulb becomes replenished in the process. I always cut off the flower stalk however as we don't want the flower to form seeds. This is because seed production takes even more energy (nutrients) from the bulb. Keep the bulb in light. Water as the soil begins to dry out. Many people apply a dilute fertilizer. ( I don't. ) Keep this up until July. Then place the potted plants in your garage or a cool basement. Forget about them until early November. Cut off the dry foliage. Replenish the upper soil in the pot. Water lightly. Place in brighter light when you see signs of growth. Voila!

So did you bring your tropical plants inside in the fall? How are they doing? They should do quite well if you place them in your basement or cool garage. Tropical plants survive cooler temperatures by slowing down their metabolism (hmm...so do we). Woody healthy plants can survive nicely indoors. Don't put them near a furnace or heater. But do place them near a window or a light source. Presently I have woody hibiscus, bougainvillea, and a bay tree sitting in the basement next to grow lights. (They are too tall to put under them.) Check on these visitors from time to time. How dry is the soil? Some plants loose their leaves which is unnerving for the gardener. Stick your hand down and feel the roots. This is where the life is (I hope). More likely than not the plant will revive when brought outdoors in the spring. Are the new leaves yellow? Don't worry about it. It's not unusual. Soon spring will be here and then you can repot these plants and take them back outdoors.

Forever Young Magazine  January 2006