The Q&A Archives: Indoor Bulb Growing

Question: Someone gave me a bulb that already has 3 long green leaves that are about 2 feet long. It sits in a terra cotta pot now and has for as long as this person had it. He told me to just clip the plant at the bottom once the plant blooms. However, neither he or I know when it will bloom, what kind of bulb it is and how exactly to take care of it once it blooms. Help!

Answer: I suspect you have an amaryllis bulb. These bulbs are often forced to bloom for a holiday display in December when they put forth a tall leafless bloom stalk with huge blooms at the top. Once the flowers fade the stem should be clipped off near the base and the foliage should be encouraged to grow with bright light, adequate watering and occasional fertilizing as for any houseplant. The more leaves the bulb produces the better the next bloom cycle; on average it takes about four leaves to replenish the bulb's strength enough for it to bloom. Some gardeners will set their amaryllis outdoors for the summer to help it rebuild itself. In any case, the bulb needs a dormant period each year, generally beginning in October for holiday blooming. To induce dormancy, stop watering it, set it in a cool (say fifty degrees), dark place and allow the foliage to die back. (Remove it when dried and shriveled.) Allow it to rest for about 8 to 10 weeks. Then bring it out into a bright location and water lightly to keep it moist but not soggy until it starts into growth again. Enjoy!

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