Experience the amazing amaryllis

#501 in a series of true experiences in real estate
December 2005, Hills Newspapers

Do yourself a favor; buy an amaryllis bulb. Take it home and watch it grow. You will be amazed.

Certainly Anet is. Anet potted up a pink amaryllis about a week ago, her first. I can’t tell you how much she is enjoying the experience.

Anet is not much of a gardener but she decided to try this out after a pre-Thanksgiving visit to her mom, Olga, who lives in Atlanta. In Olga’s living room is an array of pots containing amaryllis, not blooming yet but growing like crazy.

I guess what got Anet interested in growing her own amaryllis was all the years of hearing about amaryllis wonderfulness from her mother. Every year during the growing season, in their frequent phone conversations, Anet hears raves from Olga about her bulbs. How tall they are, how quickly they grow and of course how beautiful the colors. She even sends us photos.

It all started one year when Anet’s mom came to California for Christmas. We had a party with favors for all the guests and what Olga received was an amaryllis kit: pot, potting soil, bulb. When it came time to leave, Olga carefully packed her gifts in her suitcase, and it seemed to me that she was particularly happy tucking away the amaryllis box with its photo of a big red flower.

She wasn’t home a day before she put that kit together. It’s easy: remove potting soil tablet, add a cup of warm water, fluff. Plant the bulb with the top sticking out. Put the pot where it gets light and keep it barely moist.

Anet’s bulb is growing like gangbusters. So fast that on the third day after planting, she began to measure the growth of the bud stalk.

“Whoever wrote Jack & the Beanstalk must have been inspired by one of these,” she exclaimed before announcing that in one day, from the time she left the house in the morning until she got back at night, her bulb was a quarter inch taller.

The following morning she measured to find that the stalk had grown another three-quarters of an inch! And the next day it was even faster growing a quarter inch in only 6 hours!

Now, doesn’t this make you want to grow an amaryllis? I hope it does. You can buy one at Rite-Aid right now for $4. What a deal! This is for a kit, everything you’ll need. Choices are red, white or pink, all medium sized bulbs. If you want to start with a larger bulb (often producing more than one stalk) or you would like other flower colors, Smith & Hawken and nurseries carry bulbs for about $15 each.

Quite a variety of colors is available bare – no kit. If you buy a bulb this way, you’ll also need a pot and potting soil. Compressed coconut fiber is usually what is provided for potting medium in the kits. I found that this fiber can be purchased in the garden section at Longs. It comes in a package about the size and shape of a brick which costs less than $2.50. This should be enough to pot several amaryllis bulbs; you just cut off a piece and add warm water before planting.

We’ve sent many amaryllis bulbs to Olga since that first one: single flowers and ruffly double ones; pink, red, white, coral, a couple that are greenish white; others that combine colors.

While many people grow amaryllis for one season and discard them, Olga keeps them going. She cuts off faded flowers and continues to care for the plant. Then, during summer, when the leaves have yellowed and withered, she lets the bulbs rest for 8 to 10 weeks in a dark place in her basement. In the fall she brings them back to her living room table and begins watering again.

Anet’s amaryllis should be in bloom around Christmas time, maybe a little later. I wish I could predict exactly when the flowers will be at their prime because I’d like to display several together at our next listing and I could be growing them now. Once our stager used several enormous amaryllis in a cache pot in one of our listings, and they were spectacular.

It was an old house with a lot of unpainted wood casings in the living room that were set off by damask-like red draperies hung in the wide doorways by the stager. I thought the rich fabric was a perfect selection there. But when I walked into that room, it was the brash red of the amaryllis that took my breath away.

Go now, get your own amaryllis.

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