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Fickle and Faithful Winter Blooms: GBBD, January 2013

January 15, 2013

cyclamen close-upLike many who garden in cold climates, I depend on houseplants for flowers during the months when my garden is snoozing under its blanket of snow. My favorite winter blooms are those of amaryllis (Hippeastrum). I love their huge, dramatic, colorful flowers; and for years, I bought one each Christmas from the supermarket or a big box store. It would bloom beautifully and then languish from neglect.

Last year, I was inspired by those who keep their Hippeastrum bulbs blooming year after year to reform my bulb neglect ways. I bought several high-quality bulbs from Brent and Becky’s, enjoyed their flowers from Christmas until March, and then carefully followed instructions to fertilize them once a week while their leaves developed. I put them away in the dark in late summer and took them out 8-10 weeks later. And what was the reward for all my love and attention? Lots of foliage and not a single flower bud! Apparently it’s not enough to lavish love and attention on these plants; they are fickle and may or may not return that love. Or maybe they’re just too finicky to be kept happy in the cool temperatures of my house in winter.

amaryllis foliage1 amaryllis foliage2
cyclamen january 2013Thank goodness for cyclamen, which thrive in just those conditions. All these plants ask of me is a cool window ledge and once a week watering. In return, they bloom faithfully for months on end and never disappoint.

I haven’t given up on my Hippeastrum bulbs; I still have hopes that my fickle friends will grace me with flowers in February or March. Meanwhile, I’ll drink in the beauty of the faithful cyclamen.

cyclamen blooms1 cyclamen blooms2

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what’s in bloom this month in indoor and outdoor gardens around the globe.

37 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2013 10:26 pm

    I too had lots of leaves and no flowers. So I’m back to the supermarket bulbs in boxes.

    • January 18, 2013 8:41 pm

      Julie, What a nice surprise to run into you here! I’m not ready to give up on my fancy bulbs yet; it will be interesting to see if the one I left in Andrea’s care at the office (where it is much warmer) will have put up a flower bud in my absence.

  2. January 15, 2013 10:38 pm

    Our amaryllis bloom from dormancy after the first heavy rains that end the dry season. Then they will just be vegetative after that, getting energies again for the next year’s blooming. I forgot the dates, i am already late for GBBD.

    • January 18, 2013 8:42 pm

      Andrea, There’s no chance of growing these as outdoor plants in my climate. They are strictly exotic houseplants, and people try to force them to bloom in the winter when flowers are sorely needed.

  3. January 16, 2013 5:59 am

    Hmm – I too tried once with a particularly stunning double red amaryllis which started as a big fat bulb, but I had no joy either, and my mother has seemingly dozens of leafy amarayllis which she was once presumably optimistic about! It’s almost a Christmas ritual for me – if I am not given one I will buy one for myself after Christmas, and this year I have two supermarket post-Christmas bargains on the go. Your cyclamens are stunny – ‘practically perfect in every way’ 🙂

  4. January 16, 2013 6:38 am

    I gave up on amaryllis and other indoor plants but I do get them as gifts every so often. I try and just stick with what’s easy- naturalized perennials outside! I never had a cyclamen. I enjoyed your post and the colorful uplifting photos. Thanks Jean.

    • January 18, 2013 8:49 pm

      Cathy and Sandi, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who finds amaryllis rebloom difficult. One of mine that bloomed spectacularly last year with two tall stems of flowers has been busy dividing itself in the months since. It never made foliage at all after its bloom last year, instead making a pup. This winter, it seems to be busy dividing its main bulb into two separate smaller bulbs. All this means that these bulbs might not be big enough to bloom again for several years — but by then I’ll have three of them!

      The key to cyclamen success is to have a cool, drafty place to keep them. I bring mine to Maine with me each summer because my Gettysburg house is too hot in the summer for their liking.

  5. January 16, 2013 9:18 am

    We’re all in the same Amaryllis boat.

    I planted seeds from one of mine last year. Not only do I have 3 big bulbs that didn’t bloom, I have half a dozen seedlings that are 2 years from bloom as well. Sigh.

    • January 18, 2013 8:51 pm

      Nell, I find it reassuring that even an accomplished plantswoman like yourself sometimes has amaryllis bulbs that don’t bloom. It means that it’s not just my incompetence (and also that misery loves company).

  6. January 16, 2013 9:31 am

    I look forward to your Cyclamen blooms each year. So beautiful. I have yet to try one again. I have put some of my orchids under bell jars hoping for better warmth and humidity. Maybe by next year I will have orchid blooms again. I am patiently watching an Amaryllis Evergreen come up. The flower is supposed to be green! I hope it blooms and I can successfully keep the bulb and grow it each year.

    • January 18, 2013 8:53 pm

      Kathy, I’ll be interested in whether your Evergreen is actually green. Last year, I had blooms on ‘Green Goddess’ — they were gorgeous, but mostly white with a green throat. (I notice Brent and Becky’s changed the description of this one in their catalog this year.)

  7. January 16, 2013 9:34 am

    Happy new year Jean! Your post makes me want to run out and buys some cyclamen! Your bursts of bright colors are a much welcomed site amidst these winter days.

    • January 18, 2013 8:56 pm

      Happy new year, Allison! I bought most of my cyclamen at Farmer Whitings in Auburn, and they love our cool Maine weather. The pink one that I have blooming so profusely right now came in a tiny pot as a gift from a friend 20 years ago. I have twice repotted it to a bigger container and maybe fertilized it once or twice, but mostly these just need regular watering. They actually bloom almost all year round for me. Definitely a worthwhile investment.

  8. January 16, 2013 9:57 am

    I learned the hard way that flowers have a mind of their own. I’ve had a clivia on my windowsill for 5 years and not only did it not flower, it barely got any bigger. But who needs amaryllis when you have those gorgeous cyclamen!

    • January 18, 2013 8:58 pm

      Sarah, I think I tend to take my cyclamen for granted because they bloom most of the year and don’t demand much of me. The hard-to-get ways of the amaryllis make them seem more desirable.

  9. January 16, 2013 10:28 am

    Your cyclamen really are a bright and beautiful sight on your windowsill. I agree that you should not give up on the amaryllis just yet. I had a lovely one last year that I planted in the ground after it finished blooming. Hopefully, with our mild winter it will survive and rebloom in the ground. I have a friend whose garden is full of amaryllis. So far I haven’t seen even a green tip on mine. I am still hopeful, though doubt is growing.

    • January 22, 2013 9:56 pm

      Deb, I have two potted amaryllis that have not shown any sign of new growth — neither flower bud nor foliage. But the bulbs are not rotted and they have healthy roots, so I’ll just keep hoping for signs of growth.

  10. January 16, 2013 11:53 am

    Somehow I didn’t even do bloomig houseplants this winter and even my forced bulbs are very late. But I can wait.

    • January 22, 2013 9:58 pm

      Pat, You are more patient than I am. When the cold weather and snow arrive, I want blooms indoors, and I want them now! (An amaryllis that finally decides to bloom in April, May or June just doesn’t bring me the same quotient of pleasure as the same bloom does in December, January or February.

  11. January 16, 2013 1:02 pm

    Your cyclamen are beautiful, but amaryllis are my favorite. We’ve only grown them for one pop then discarded. So frustrating that they have not responded to all your efforts.

    • January 22, 2013 10:00 pm

      Jason, I used to just discard them, too, until I discovered that others kept them and had beautiful reblooms. I have had some of my big box store cheapie ones rebloom — although not reliably. I still have hopes that I’ll learn the secret of amaryllis rebloom and have success. It’s sort of like baseball — just wait until next year!

  12. January 16, 2013 8:07 pm

    Your cyclamen really are putting on a show. How wonderful they look in their window, sure to make your day brighter. Keep trying with those bulbs, you just never know what might happen.

    • January 22, 2013 10:04 pm

      Marguerite, The 20-year-old pink cyclamen is blooming much more profusely than it ever has before. I repotted it a couple of years ago, and I think maybe I gave it some fertilizer while I was busy fertilizing the amaryllis plants this past year. It’s nice to have some plants that reward my efforts! (I find myself wanting to say to the amaryllis the words that all children hate to hear from their parents: “Why can’t you be more like your sister.”)

  13. January 17, 2013 1:24 am

    I cannot get the amaryllis to rebloom but I can for my Christmas cactus which blooms non-stop all winter. I have amaryllis bulbs flowering but I do not keep them. Of course I have my herbs and lettuces under grow lights and my peace lily is blooming indoors. What would we do Jean. I would go mad.

    • January 22, 2013 10:08 pm

      Donna, I’m going to have to get Christmas cactus lessons from you. I have even a worse record with those than with amaryllis. In fact, I am well on my way to killing my second Christmas cactus. Typically, I buy them in bloom and they look lovely. The second year, the bloom again, but more sparsely. The third year, I get about 5 flowers, etc. And my blooms never last more than about a week.

  14. January 17, 2013 4:38 pm

    Hi Jean, I’ve had some success with Amaryllis, I’ve had one bulb for a few years now and it has re-flowered each year but this latest time it was wildly early so it seems to be reverting back to it’s normal flowering pattern. I don’t coddle mine much, I leave them in their pots, feed when I remember and put them in a south facing position over the Spring and Summer when the night time temperatures are safely above 5C.

    • January 22, 2013 10:10 pm

      Sunil, When I have had amaryllis rebloom, it has usually been later than in their first forced year. (I’ve also interpreted them as their reverting back to their normal pattern.) Maybe I should try setting them outside in summer — although July is the only month when Maine temperatures are reliably above 5C.

  15. January 17, 2013 7:13 pm

    A beautiful way to brighten up the gray days of winter. The cyclamen is stunning!

    • January 25, 2013 10:02 am

      Kevin, I love the cyclamen, too. And the one with all the pink flowers is particularly lovely this year.

  16. joenesgarden permalink
    January 17, 2013 7:37 pm

    Jean, your cyclamen are so lovely. We all have plants that just seem to work in the specific environment we create for them. Don’t be too disappointed about your amaryllis … I’m sure you will figure out the perfect conditions before too long, and even then, sometimes the magic doesn’t work. Mine bloomed beautifully for the first two years, then gave a double bloom last year. This year, nothing. Bathe in your success with cyclamen.

    • January 25, 2013 10:04 am

      Joene, I think what I found discouraging about the amaryllis is that none of them bloomed. I know they’re not all going to bloom every year — but with 7 pots of amaryllis bulbs scattered around, you’d think I could get at least one flower stalk! I still hope to figure this out, though, and to have more success next year.

  17. January 18, 2013 11:50 am

    Very nice cyclamen. I probably covet them in the same way you do the hippeastrums. The latter we’re lucky enough with our warmth to be able to stick in the ground once they’re done indoors and enjoy them in future years, only their natural bloom times are later in the season than mid-winter. But the cyclamen, woe. For me it’s been hard to replicate the Maine or Pennsylvania northern windowsill microclimate outdoors here–some foliage (lovely by itself) but not many flowers, especially after the first year. The grass is always greener, I guess…

    • January 25, 2013 10:07 am

      James, It’s so true. We take the plants that bloom easily in our climates for granted and covet the ones that we can’t easily grow. My memories of living in southern California would suggest that the drafty windowsill climate the cyclamen love would be just about impossible to replicate. (I remember a few unusually cold winter mornings when I regretted that the clothes I was planning to wear were hanging next to the uninsulated outside wall of the house; the cyclamen want whole months like that!)

  18. January 20, 2013 5:26 am

    Hi Jean, I could never get amaryllis to come back either, so very impressed at Sunil’s expertise! The cyclamen are beautiful though! You’ve quite inspired me to have a shot growing them from corms later this year!

    • January 25, 2013 10:11 am

      I’m impressed by Sunil, too. If you’re like me, you’ll find the cyclamen provide satisfaction when the amaryllis bulbs disappoint.

  19. January 20, 2013 11:32 am

    Jean, it reminds me of my attempts at lifting Tulip bulbs, they never came to much the following year. Just treating them as chuck away annuals now.

    • January 25, 2013 10:14 am

      Alistair, I just planted tulip bulbs this fall for the first time in decades — and, of course, I have fantasies of them blooming more than one year. I think I was happier when I just treated my supermarket amaryllis as annuals, before I learned that others kept them and got them to rebloom. (I guess this falls under the aphorism “Ignorance is bliss.”)

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