By now any amaryllis that was potted and received as a gift for the holidays should be close to full bloom. If the bulb kit is still unopened, it is time to discover the magic within.
While watching the amaryllis grow, any unplanted spring flowering bulbs of other types still lying around in the garden shed could be forced in pots for indoor bloom.
Forcing is a technique of getting bulbs to bloom outside of their natural cycle. Spring flowering bulbs are typically planted outside in the autumn, and allowed to chill naturally during the winter while developing a root system in damp soil.
Bulbs that were not planted in the ground could by now be shriveling while trying to sprout. They could be rescued by forcing.
While an amaryllis can be carried over from year to year after forcing in the late autumn, most other bulbs will have spent all of their energy after bloom and should be discarded.
Bulbs typically require six to 12 weeks of cold temperatures before they bloom, and many are marketed pre-chilled. Bulbs that have been stored in the refrigerator, or in a cold shed or garage can be forced now.
Those that have been stored in a warm room could be planted out of doors, but there may not be much hope for success. A pot 4 to 6 inches deep, some potting soil, clean sand or gravel, and a fairly light spot are all that is needed to enjoy spring bloom.
Place about 2 inches of moist soil or sand in the bottom of the pot, securely set the bulbs on the soil, root side down, point side up, and fill with soil just so the tips are showing. Water thoroughly and set the pot in a light, airy spot.
If the bulbs have any life in them at all, in a few days they will start to grow, and will grow a couple of inches a day for about three weeks before they bloom. Once the blooms are spent and the foliage begins to yellow, it is time to discard the bulbs.
Spring flowering bulbs that may be suitable for treating in this manner are tulips, members of the daffodil family, crocus and hyacinth.
That giant amaryllis, on the other hand, can be enjoyed as a winter bloom, a greenhouse or garden plant, and then as a winter bloom again next year. Once the bloom is spent, keep the plant growing indoors by watering as needed and fertilizing every two to three weeks.
When the danger of frost is past, set the pot outside, or remove the plant from the pot and plant in well-drained soil where it will get strong light, but protection from afternoon sun.
Water and feed about every three weeks until about the first of August. Remove the bulb from the soil, dry it out, removing the foliage but keeping the root system intact. Store in a cool, dark place until about the first of November. Plant in a clean pot with new soil, begin watering and enjoy beautiful trumpet blooms again in mid-December.
Garden chores this month include pruning of deciduous trees, and spraying fruit trees with dormant oil spray to control pests.
Rim Area Gardeners are holding a pruning workshop at 9 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road in Rumsey Park. For additional information, contact John Schultz at (928) 472-6571.
Barb Bourscheidt is a longtime resident of Payson, a member of the Rim Area Gardeners and a participant in the Gila County Master Gardener program. She serves on the board of directors of the High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona, and she researches and writes articles on the subject of water conservation through creative landscaping and climate-appropriate gardening techniques.