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The Pleasure of Winter Flowers: GBBD, February 2023

February 18, 2023

plant window feb 2023By mid-February, we are beginning to see promises of spring in Maine as days get longer and we enjoy occasional mild temperatures. But at this time of year, we are also reminded that winter is Maine’s longest season. With many weeks of wintry weather still in front of us, even enthusiastic winter lovers may be starting to feel tired of winter.

I can think of nothing so cheering on a cold February day as the big beautiful blooms of a potted amaryllis (Hippeastrum). ‘Apple Blossom’ has been opening its gorgeous flowers one-by-one through this mid-February week. I greet them with joy each morning, and they make me smile each time I walk by. I love Apple Blossom’s green throat and the fact that, when its flowers first open, the anthers are covered with mauve-colored pollen. Apple blossom 2023

These flowers will begin to fade during the coming week, but, happily, I have four more amaryllis bulbs with flower buds that will open in the weeks to come. I keep about a dozen potted amaryllis bulbs going from year to year, and in a typical year, I feel very lucky to have three put up flower stalks. To have five blooming in the same year is a special treat.

I had intended to repot these bulbs with fresh potting soil in the fall, but I never got around to it; instead, I sprinkled some bulb fertilizer on the surface of the soil in each pot as I put them away in the basement for their period of dormancy. Was this the secret sauce that produced an unusually large number of flower buds? I’ll have to try it again next year and see if I get similar results.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a monthly celebration of flowers hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her website to see what other gardeners have blooming in February.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2023 7:52 pm

    I expect your success is because of what you did last the summer. The bulb did its building then and made its bud. But you sure didn’t hurt it by fertlizing now! I am going to start fertilizing mine when they finish blooming, just a little while they are still inside. Once they go outside, their roots go down through the pot holes and into the ground where they get more nutrition. I also pour on liqiud fertilizer whenever I am fertilizing other containers (every other week with fish emulsion, if I remember). Mine have bloomed yearly for me. Again this year it is 3 out of 3.

    • February 22, 2023 4:52 pm

      Hi Harriet, Thanks for the explanation of when the bulb makes its bud. It makes sense, but deepens the mystery, since I didn’t do anything differently last summer — fertilizing weekly weakly with fish emulsion from spring when the bulbs finish blooming until mid-late August, when I let them start to dry out in preparation for going into dormancy. This suggests, though, that if I’m going to give the bulbs fresh potting soil, I should do so in late spring/early summer when the bulbs can benefit most from the boost in nutrients.

  2. February 18, 2023 9:45 pm

    Is common Amaryllis belladonna ever grown for bloom inside? I see only cultivars of Hippeastrum in pictures. Amaryllis belladonna grows wild here. I just put out some tiny bulbs that grew from their abundant seed last week. Although I am none too keen on their overly bright pink bloom, they might be nice . . . for the right situation.

    • February 23, 2023 2:57 pm

      Tony, I’ve never seen these grown for indoor blooms (whereas potted Hippeastrum bulbs are ubiquitous).

  3. February 18, 2023 11:16 pm

    It’s a beautiful and rewarding plant. I’m still waiting for my own ‘Apple Blossom’ Hippeastrum to bloom but I’ve got others that are already flowering. I grow mine outside, which slows the process down some even in my climate. I planted out a number of varieties I had in pots in previous years, hoping that they’ll naturalize as they did in my former garden. Assuming they survive, they should bloom later this year.

    • February 23, 2023 2:59 pm

      Kris, I imagine that growing them outdoors slows down the process because they like warmth to bloom — the same reason I have trouble getting them to bloom in my cool Maine house. This year, I helped mine along by placing them on a heat mat for the first couple of weeks after I brought them out of their dark, cool basement space.

  4. February 19, 2023 5:40 pm

    Here where we grow them in the ground outdoors some low-nitrogen fertilizer seems to help give them stronger flower stems. I think of them as consolation for being unable to grow tulips.

    • February 23, 2023 3:05 pm

      hb, It’s funny how we all yearn to grow something that isn’t suitable for our climate. (I have agapanthus envy.) I live in the right climate to grow tulips, but don’t try to grow them because the white tailed deer love them so much. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has reconsidered the practice of planting tens of thousands of tulip bulbs each fall after last year’s spring tulip display completely failed; the deer got every single one.

  5. February 26, 2023 12:39 pm

    Hello Jean, over here we’re getting ready to kick winter out the back door. The Camellias are all flowering and some of the magnolia trees around us are just starting to crack open their flower casings (ours flowers later). I’ve always loved your Amaryllis, especially as we never got ours to re-flower, you must have the magic touch it so I enjoy seeing yours year after year. After the current set flower, you can try the fertiliser with one and repotting with another and see if there are any differences.

    • February 27, 2023 11:46 am

      Sunil, Winter has been staging a comeback here, with three snow storms forecast for this week as February turns into March — a reminder for us that March is definitely a winter month in Maine.
      As for the amaryllis bulbs, I have at least two that have never bloomed again after the first year, but I keep them going in hopes that I may someday see their flowers once more. I like the experimental approach to seeing what helps more in encouraging bloom; thanks for the suggestion.

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