Exotic Indoor Winter Blooms

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 20:03 -- mgbax
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Sunday, January 22, 2017
Nothing says winter exotica like the blooms of the winter lily. I began my adventure with these beauties last year when I rescued a bulb that, mistreated, was struggling to survive in the back of the display box. I was always appalled at the price asked for these bulbs, but this one was on sale at 25% of retail, so I couldn’t resist. Just after the new year the bulb rewarded me with 2 stalks of 3 blossoms each. My husband was enchanted as I was, saying it brightened up the kitchen window like nothing else on a wintery day.
 
Though commonly labeled as amaryllis these bulbs are correctly called Hippeastrum. The true amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna) is native to South Africa and will grow successfully only in-ground. Hippeastrum is a New World bulb, native to tropical and subtropical regions from Argentina to Mexico and the Caribbean. It doesn’t mind being forced -- which is what makes it such a lovely winter treat in the northern hemisphere. 
After ‘Red Lion’ was finished last year I put him, pot and all, in the garage then when frost danger was past, at the back of the garden shed. Then I forgot about him. That is, until late July when I noticed a ghostly white stalk about a foot tall. In the warmth of the shed he was gallantly trying to bloom again, and had produced a large offset. I did some belated research: these bulbs should be removed from the soil they’ve bloomed in and stored dry, on their side, until late autumn when you replant them for a winter bloom. Oops.
 
Once on the patio under cover, Red Lion was soon green and healthy, and gave me a single large blossom. As soon as his greenery died back I put him and the offset into proper storage conditions. This past December I planted both half-buried, keeping the soil in the pot very lightly moist so the fleshy roots wouldn’t rot. After that double blooming cycle, Red’s single winter bloom was small. When his and the offset’s greenery dies back they’ll go back into proper dormancy storage I expect the offset will be large enough to bloom in 2 years.
 
I admit, I’m hooked. This year I treated myself to another bulb, even though it was full price. Just this week, ‘Picotee’ promises to be quite spectacular with its white blooms edged in scarlet. Hubby is pleased as well, even though I think I can hear his Scotts grandma turning over in her grave.
 
Author:  Jo Canning, MG, Vancouver Island Chapter

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