Do you have someone on your Christmas list who cannot get out and about anymore, someone who is pretty much confined to the indoors? Such people, whether they are gardeners or not, will appreciate a gift which is not static, a gift that provides interest by constantly changing. Because the recipient of the gift may have mobility or other health issues, the gift should not demand much care. One such gift, which I think is a perfect choice, is a potted amaryllis.
The bulbs of these delightful plants are available in garden centres either as bulbs that can be chosen out of a bin, or as a kit that includes potting mix and container as well as the bulb. Whichever kind is chosen, it is best to pot the bulb before taking it to the shut-in. The bulb will have some fleshy roots attached to the bottom of the bulb and may have a flower bud starting to poke out of the top or side of the bud. Trim off any damaged or dead roots and plant the bulb in a pot – a six-inch pot works well – using ordinary soilless potting mix (or the enclosed mix if you bought a kit). Leave the shoulders of the bulb above the soil level, so only cover about two-thirds of the bulb. Either dampen the potting mix before you plant the bulb or water the pot after planting has been completed. I often sprinkle a bit of soil insecticidal powder on top of the soil and water it in to make sure no fungus gnats are taken into the home of the recipient. It also might be a good idea to slip the pot into a heavier, decorative pot of some kind as the plant, when in bloom, will become quite top heavy and you don’t want the receiver of the gift to have to deal with the whole thing toppling over.
Be sure to take the pot to the shut-in right away as part of the enjoyment will come from his/ her being able to watch as the plant grows – and grow it will. An amaryllis grows very quickly and every day the recipient will be able to see a change in the bud as the flower stalk elongates and the bud begins to show colour, and finally, in a couple of weeks, observe as the flowers open one at a time. Over a period of a couple of weeks the plant will bloom until finally the last flower will fade. If you have bought a particularly large bulb the recipient of your gift might see a second flower bud emerge from the bulb; although this does not usually happen, it is not unheard of for a bulb to produce two flower stalks.
Be sure to pick up the pot after it has finished blooming so that looking after it doesn’t become a burden. You can either compost the contents of the pot or put the plant in bright light in your own home and keep it watered and fertilized for the rest of the winter. In the spring you can plant it outdoors and next fall, dig it up, dry it off and store it until it is time to pot it up again – perhaps to return it to the same person to whom you gave it to this Christmas. He/she would be happy to know that her “old friend” is back for another round of bloom and could look forward to watching the bulb go through its flowering cycle once more. What a delightful way for a shut-in to be engaged in a wonderful gardening activity with the only effort required being to water the bulb as it produces its blooms.
– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba