Thursday, November 26, 2015

Growing And Reblooming Poinsettias

     Nothing may say Christmas more, like the Poinsettia! A sub tropical Euphorbia known for its bright Red bracts, although they have been bred in White and many colour combinations inbetween. I stumbled on a way to make them bloom for Christmas a few years ago, and perhaps not guaranteed, it's worth a try.
     You'll probably buy a Poinsettia or twelve near Christmas time, look around for quality and price, it can really vary. If I'm going to buy one I try to get the biggest and healthiest and most economical possible. Keep watering on a regular basis and remember our houses get very dry in the winter, they should last several weeks thru Christmas. Eventually the large greenhouse grown green leaves will wither and drop off and eventually the whole plant may drop all of it's leaves, don't worry it's doing what Euphorbias evolved to do in arid climates. Keep watering on a once a week basis and new leaves will develop soon. By the time June rolls around you should have a leafy-green poinsettia to put outside in a hot and sheltered location. Fertilize regularly thru the summer months making sure to not let dry out too much. Now here is where it gets tricky, I did this in Calgary, so it should be possible almost anywhere. I grew my Poinsettias under a sunny yet protected roof in a, conveniently, dark area of the backyard as late as possible into September. From time to time we get lucky enough to avoid a frosty night until late in September, don't let these guys freeze, but the increasing dark nights is what triggers the blooming. By about late September its time for these guys to come inside, if you live in a warmer area I'll bet they would love until whenever your warm nights end.  Place the Poinsettia(s) in the sunniest window you have and hopefully by December the tiny red or white bracts will start appearing along with the actual alien looking flower parts.
     I have tried many of the methods over the years, like putting a Poinsettia in a box at regular times for 12 hours of darkness, it doesn't work, you will forget and the flowers will not form later! Apparently just a crack of light will ruin the cycle, so it is a challenge. I had one Poinsettia for about 10 years, after a while they become like small bonsai trees, the leaves become smaller than the greenhouse grown ones you buy and the trunks become bare and beautifully twisted. The old Poinsettia was more reliable on flowering so I'm guessing the older the better. Maybe you have seen Poinsettias in your travels? I've seen them in Los Angeles growing to the height of a two story building and with the red bracts in the winter, we may love that idea but I know the Californians wish they had snow for Christmas!

     So give it a try! I haven't done this in a while as the new neighbours like to leave their outside lights on all the time, remember too much light will ruin the flowering so if you have a reliably dark area away from streetlights and porch lights and warm enough thru the night it's worth a shot!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How To Grow and Rebloom Amaryllis

     Who doesn't love Amaryllis? Especially at Christmastime!? Maybe you've received one as a gift or bought one in a box from your grocery store and then wondered what do I do with it now? I've been growing Amaryllis for years, they are very easy to grow and rebloom if you understand their simple needs.

     Like a lot of us you probably bought one in a box, hopefully when they go on sale!, they usually come with a pot and soil and directions, follow accordingly. I don't always use the pot and soil they come with however as I think they prefer a clay pot, and so do I!!!! You can always use a better potting soil if you want because they usually just come with some peat moss and I think these bulbs would like something a little more nutritious and some improved drainage. I always add some rocks for drainage and a little pearlite to the soil wouldn't hurt either, afterall these guys are native to South Africa!
     After you have selected your Amaryllis at the store, please open the box because you can usually see if they have signs of life and hopefully two buds sprouting! Followed the directions, plant with a little of the top of the bulb showing, ensured good drainage and soil. Now wait, and water regularly for the next 5 to 6 weeks. So, if you want Amaryllis for Christmas you should probably buy one and plant it about the last week or so of November. Myself, I like to buy at deep discount closer to Christmas! They will bloom for about a week and many times a second flower stalk emerges so you can have flowers for at least a couple of weeks in the darkest winter days.
After the flowers have faded, you may want to clip them off individually as they fade, snip off the whole spent flower cluster just under where they split off from the main stalk. Leave the stalk to wither away and remove easily when it's completely dried out. Amaryllis won't need as much water as when flowering, but keep watering about once a week and fertilize with a 20-20-20 solution once a month through the summer. At this point I let them grow outside until the first frost.

     Growing Amaryllis Outdoors: Once we've reached the point where the flowers have long gone and warm weather has returned outdoors, you should have a bulb with a few strappy leaves coming out of the top. Place in a warm and sunny spot, like near a wall and water freely, they will probably get rainfall too but also remember to fertilize regularly, once or twice a month, they will likely grow more leaves until the nights get cold again. In this part of the world I usually bring them in if there is danger of hard frost about the end of September. Once summer has finished Amaryllis must rest! This part is very important, put the plants in a sunny window and cease watering until the leaves turn brown and wither away, this can take until November. When the leaves are dried and easy to pull away from the bulb put them in a cool dark place for the winter. I know, you will probably not have them for Christmas with this method as the resting period is not long enough but it does work for reblooming and you will probably have them for Easter! I usually bring the bulbs that have overwintered  in their pots with soil out of the dark around March, soak the potted bulbs in the sink for several hours and resume watering regularly until the flowers appear once again in a few weeks. Sorry, I haven't figured out how to reschedule the bloom time for winter, I usually just buy more near Christmas, but this method seems to work best in our climate.
While Amaryllis are lovely at Christmas they are also rewarding through the spring indoors! All one has to do is understand their simple needs and they will provide years of flowering!