Indoor Winter Gardening

A huge, healthy hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulb that survived the cycle of dormancy was potted up this weekend for Christmas bloom. This variety is called ‘Picotee’, a beautiful, graceful white with slight pink rimming. I love it when a hippeastrum reboots year after year. I also potted a new hippeastrum bulb, ‘Christmas White’. White hippeastrum are my faves.

A few baby succulents took up residence in some coconut shell cups I had. They’ll bring some life to our winter kitchen.

I had my eye on this glass and wood terrarium all summer. It finally went on sale at 50 percent off, and I bought it Saturday, along with some small succulents to plant inside.

Paperwhite bulbs are inexpensive and easy growing. I always water force them. Here’s the first one of the season.

Winter gardening haul: Two large hippeastrums, a bag of paperwhites, a gorgeous glass and wood terrarium, a variety of succulents, cactus mix, pebbles, moss, nutrients, and containers.

The winter indoor gardening bug bit hard this weekend. Not only did I spend my allowance for the next 50 years on bulbs, containers, potting mix, pebbles, succulents, soil cover, nutrients, etc., but I spent whatever free time I had potting up new bulbs and old, creating a new garden terrarium, planting mango pits, going through last year’s bulbs and tossing the ones that died in storage, moving some outdoor arugula, planting succulents in coconut shells, and harvesting rose seeds from the garden rosehips.

The reward is having this cluster of potted and water-suspended bulbs spring to life as the snow falls, and a small, green ecosystem living in an amazing glass terrarium. These are the things that keep me sane until next summer. These are the things that matter.

It’s the time of year for hippeastrum (mistakenly called ‘amaryllis’, and yet referred to as ‘amaryllis' everywhere I go). You can buy great, huge, healthy bulbs at a good nursery for about $15, or so-so ones at Wal-Mart for about $5. If you’re not a huge enthusiast, there’s nothing wrong with going with Wal-Mart.

Basic procedure: pot up the bulb in a freely draining potting mix in a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom. Make sure the pot is heavy enough to keep the top-heavy, blooming bulb from tipping over. But the pot shouldn’t be much larger than the bulb. Hippeastrum love to be root bound.

Water and let all water drain from the pot. Place the potted bulb in a warm spot in the house, not in direct sun. Warmth and water will wake up the bulb and send a signal to start putting out roots. But if the potted bulb is in a sunny window, the bulb will send up scapes and leaves, reaching for the sun, before a good root system has developed. So give it warmth, but avoid bright sun. An East or North facing window is good.

Don’t water the bulb again until it shows signs of growth. Then, keep it moist but not wet, and keep it in a bright spot. Within 6 to 8 weeks, it will be in bloom.

After blooming, and if you want to keep it alive and have it bloom next Christmas, remove the scape with the dead flower, and treat the bulb like a houseplant. Keep it moist but not wet, and feed it once a month with a balanced fertilizer.

Come summer, place it outdoors where it will get partial sun at first, then full sun. It needs to acclimate to sunshine. Treat it like any other outdoor potted plant. Water when needed, and feed monthly.

On August 1, stop watering and feeding the potted bulb. Place it is an area where it’s sheltered from rain, and let it dry completely. Wait a week. Cut off the leaves to about an inch above the bulb. Keep it in its pot. Place the pot in a cool basement or root cellar. Now, it will go dormant.

Leave it in your root cellar or basement for about 3 months. Now, it rests. After its rest, remove the bulb from its old pot, trim the roots flush with the bottom of the bulb, remove any cruddy, dead material from the top and sides of the bulb, and repot it in fresh soil.
Then, start all over from step 1.

It sounds like work, but if you love hippeastrum, it’s all good. I love the process. Seeing the same bulb wake up and flower so beautifully, then go to sleep, then wake up again, bigger and better than the year before, year after year, is pure amazement to me.

Live in peace.

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