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Miniature amaryllis for winter color: They bear more blooms than giant kinds.

If giant amaryllis are the tubas in the flowering bulb band, miniature amaryllis are the French horns. The large-flowered amaryllis we're used to seeing at this time of year carry huge blossoms--8 and even 10 inches across. By comparison, miniature amaryllis flowers are only one-third as wide. Yet what these smaller blooms lack in breadth they make up for in volume. Miniature kinds not only put out more flowers per stem than their bigger cousins but produce more stems, which tend to come one at a time, so you get a long performance from each bulb.

While large-flowered kinds can look rather stiff and formal, miniature amaryllis, with their wavy blooms, have a graceful informality that fits anywhere in the house--on the kitchen table, sideboards, even bathroom counters.

Many nurseries now carry miniature amaryllis. Christmas-flowering amaryllis, usually bulbs grown in South Africa (or elsewhere in the southern hemisphere), bloom sooner after planting--in 4 to 6 weeks--and are available as early as September. Dutch-grown bulbs take longer to bloom--from 8 to 12 weeks.

If you can't find miniatures locally order bulbs from McClure & Zimmerman (800/883-6998 or www.mzbulb.com) and John Scheepers (860/567-0838 or www.johnscheepers.com).

For more tips on indoor bulbs, go to www.sunset.com/winterbulbs.html.

Planting tips

Choose containers just large enough to hold the bulbs with an inch or so to spare all around. Typically you can fit one bulb in a 6-inch pot and three bulbs in an 8-inch pot. Make sure containers are deep enough to accommodate all the roots and are heavy enough to counterbalance the substantial top growth. Miniature amaryllis stems are almost as tall as those of large-flowered kinds.

Fill containers halfway with potting soil. Set bulbs stem ends up and partially cover with additional potting soil. The widest part of the bulb should be at soil level, leaving up to half the bulb above the soil. Firm soil around the bulb and water well. Then keep soil barely moist until shoots emerge.

Once growth begins, give the plant bright, indirect light and more water. Turn frequently so the stalk won't lean toward the light. When buds open, move the container to a cooler location to prolong flower life. Cut off individual flowers as they fade. After all flowers have withered, cut off the entire stem.

After-bloom care

If you want to maintain the plant after bloom, encourage growth by watering regularly and feeding bimonthly with liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. (If foliage did not appear with the bloom, it will now.)

Once the danger of frost is past, move the plant outdoors, preferably in a spot where it will get morning sun and afternoon shade.

Allow it to dry out and go dormant in late summer. Repot in late fall or early winter, and as new flower buds emerge, resume watering.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cohoon, Sharon
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:475
Previous Article:What to do in your garden in December: Plant color, harvest greens, water wisely, and celebrate the season. (Northern California * Checklist).
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