Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES -- New Mexico gardeners can get a jump on spring by growing flowering plants indoors. Amaryllis, an exotic, tropical plant, offers showy trumpet-shaped flowers to usher in the season.
"Plants go through popularity cycles with consumers," said Curtis Smith, horticulture specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "The amaryllis was once popular, then lagged for a while, and now is back in favor. I've seen large amaryllis bulbs for sale at many nurseries recently."
As a tropical plant, the amaryllis doesn't tolerate freezing temperatures. "It grows best indoors in our climate," Smith said.
Plant amaryllis bulbs in pots, leaving the necks of the bulbs exposed above the soil. "Most of the bulbs sold at nurseries have been treated and should begin growing almost immediately," he said. "It may take a couple of months to reach flowering stage, though." The bulb sends up a spike or stalk that may reach 2 feet in height. White, pink or red trumpet-shaped flowers form near the top of the stalk.
Place the pots in brightly lit locations, preferably exposed to full sun. "Potted plants dry very rapidly, so make sure to keep the soil moist," Smith said.
To maintain the plants from year to year, expose them to cooler, drier conditions in the fall. Reduce watering and place the plants in cooler areas of the house. "The plants need a resting period for the leaves to die back. Cooler temperatures will cause the plants to go dormant, before flowering again the following year."
In late winter to early spring, amaryllis plants will resume growth and should be moved back into warmer, brighter locations.
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