Today’s trip to a couple home improvement stores revealed an abundance of leftover holiday Amaryllis bulbs, some sprouting already, others still hunkered down in their boxes, as my sister-in-law says “looking like pound puppies in need of being rescued. ” They blossom into such beauties, it would be a sad waste to let them all bloom in the landfill. Thinking ahead, now is the perfect time to start amaryllis bulbs growing indoors to give as Valentine’s Day gifts. Their fresh green, strappy foliage and tall flower stalks, many over two feet high, topped by large, showy, trumpet-shaped blooms in shades of red, white and pink will create eye-popping, heart-warming impressions that can grow for years. For each amaryllis you want to force into bloom indoors, you’ll need the bulb itself; a container for planting with good drainage, heavy enough to counterbalance this top-heavy plant, that measures about 2 inches wider than the bulb; and some potting soil and perhaps stones to add weight and drainage at the bottom of the pot. Plant the bulb so that about an inch it’s tip shows above the soil, and water thoroughly; drain away excess accumulated water so the bulb doesn’t rot, and wait until you see green leaves begin to sprout before watering again. Blooms usually take at least 40 days to emerge, sometimes longer depending on variety and growing conditions. The ones already sprouting a bit may take less time.
My favorite sources for special ‘designer’ bulbs are Easy to Grow Bulbs , where a wide assortment of large, high-quality bulbs of all sorts can be found. Reading through their offerings is an education in itself. They only ship through December, though, so check out their Web-site soon if you plan to do a project now. Also, the abundance of White Flower Farm’s gorgeous selections are a traditional inspiration, and a favorite with gardeners for years.