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Go for easy-care amaryllis bulbs to bring in bright blooms this winter

 An amaryllis bulb's green leaves emerge from its bulb with a silver wax covering. The bulb sits on a wooden block in front of a black background.
Robert Knapp/Getty Images/iStockphoto
A waxed amaryllis bulb makes a great holiday gift for folks on your list who would love some bright blooms on their office desk or in a dorm room this winter.

A bulb native to the southern hemisphere can add vibrant color to your northern winter world: amaryllis.

Introduce these bulbs to your home for added color and warmth during the colder, darker months. And once they're done blooming this winter, learn to care for them and they'll bloom for years to come.

The bulbs are readily available and they don't require much care to grow and blossom.

A more recent, Dutch-bred variety makes it even easier to get gorgeous flowers. The amaryllis bulb even has a waxed coating and a pedestal on its base, allowing the amaryllis to grow and bloom without ever needing to be potted in soil or adding water!

These waxed bulbs with the built-in pedastal make a great gift for someone without the greenest of thumbs. These stand-alone bulbs are also great to introduce into an office setting or dorm room.

When amaryllis bulbs bloom, they produce large, trumpet-shaped flowers in colors from white to pink to red and even striped! A new amaryllis bulb called, Yellow Star, even boasts more rare yellow blooms.

If you'd like to grow some this year, purchase a few bulbs, grab some potting soil and a container and you'll bet set. And the bigger the amaryllis bulb, the more stalks and flowers you'll get!

Once you have some bulbs, choose a pot with a bit of heft - a too-light container may tip, as these bulbs can grow stalks as tall as two feet, straight up! Still, choose a container that isn't too large - when planted, the bulbs like to be cozy and surrounded by soil.

Next, add potting soil to a container and place the bulb in. Then place the pot in a warm and brightly lit room and let it grow. Occasionally, rotate the container a bit, as it may start leaning towards the windows, seeking the light.

If you're potting them now, you'll have blossoms by early- to mid-January.
In the meantime, you'll get to watch the amaryllis bulb's green stalk and leaves grow, then blossoms will appear and finally, giant colorful blooms will unfurl.

The plant will continue to grow up about two feet tall but if you want to keep the plant shorter, try the variety called, "Nymph," which will grow to about half that.

And with some care and planning, you can enjoy amaryllis flowers indoors and the plant's greenery outdoors, for years to come.

If you don't toss it and want to try your hand at growing and re-growing the bulb, you'll get your chance later this winter. After the flowers wilt and fall off, and once the flower stalks are done growing, cut them back. Then let the leaves continue to grow as a house plant!

Then in summer, put the pot outside in a partly shaded area. Once there, water regularly, fertilize and enjoy the greenery!

Come August or September, bring the container back indoors. Once inside, discontinue watering the container so the soil and bulb can dry out. From there, cut all the foliage off, and let it all die back.

Once the container and bulb are completely dried out, place it in a dark, cool place, like your basement or a similar space. Keep it there for about eight weeks.

After that time has passed, bring the container back up from its dark space then, six to eight weeks before you want to have the flower bloom again, repot the bulb with fresh soil.

Then just follow the same steps as above (water, warm and bright room, wait six to eight weeks for blossoms) and you'll have amaryllis blooms year after year!

A: We have a calamondin tree. The plant is about 3 feet tall in a pot, which we move out to the deck in the summer and indoors in the winter. It does well in front of an east-facing sliding glass door. In the last year or so, it has grown a fairly dense moss on top of the dirt in the pot. Why might this be? - Kathy, in Orford, New Hampshire

A: A calamondin is in indoor citrus plant. The reason that moss is there is probably because the plant needs repotting.

Potting soil compresses and condenses over time. When that happens, the water doesn't flow through it very well and so the soil stays wet.

When the soil is wet, moss can begin to grow.

So, try repotting the tree with some fresh potting soil. You can even add in woody material like woodchips or something like that.

As far as getting larger calamondin orange fruits, try adding fertilizer to the soil.

Q: We get a truckload of ox manure delivered in the fall. We use it late in the summer to improve the soil. But by the time we get to the pile, it's full of weeds and the roots are impossible to completely get out. Should we cover it? - Laura, in Gaysville

A: You can cover the manure pile with a tarp, but weeds are caused by seeds, as opposed to plant roots will begin to grow the quickly after you take that tarp up.

One thing to try is to come through with a pitchfork and uproot kill the weeds and mix them into the manure. Do that two or three times and you'll kill off a lot of those weed seeds that are in that pile.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes.

You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition with Vermont Public host Mary Williams Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vermontpublic. We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.