In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
February, 2008
Regional Report

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When gifts grow to a collection, plant a patch of joyful amaryllis.

Long-Lived Flowering Gifts

Potted amaryllis, azaleas, and tulips all wrapped in foil and bows are nice to get, but what you do with them after the holiday passes depends on the gift and the giftee ... you.

Some popular tropical plants often given as gifts come from higher elevations or where alternating wet and dry weather is the norm. Amaryllis and gloxinias are examples of plants that naturally rest between bloom cycles. Both can thrive as potted plants for years if you allow them to dry out for a few weeks once the blooms fade. Amaryllis needs to replenish its bulb's nutrients to prepare for flowering, gloxinia does the same for its corm.

Bulbs and corms, like canna lily tubers, are storage organs that each plant depends on for its life. Cut the spent bloom stalk off amaryllis, and remove the faded gloxinia flowers, but let the leaves stay attached until they turn brown. As they go dormant, put the pot on its side under a bench or away from the window, stop watering, and wait. After a month or six weeks, both will pop a small green shoot out of the soil. Put the pot back in strong light, resume watering and fertilizing, and get ready for the next cycle of flowers.

Not Quite Bonsai
Too often, the gift of a tabletop topiary confuses gardeners when it comes to its needed care. The plant is usually an evergreen such as rosemary, which is at home in our gardens. It has been potted up, staked, trimmed, and sometimes configured to fit a metal form. It has been grown in a greenhouse and babied with ideal conditions. When it becomes a centerpiece indoors, the challenges begins.

Low humidity and light, plus our tendency to overwater or leave it to dry excessively can be fatal to rosemary. The tips turn brown and the damage proceeds unless you add regular clipping to the care regimen. Put evergreen topiaries in bright light and water when the soil feels dry to the touch; fertilize monthly. Keep scissors or small snips handy, and use them frequently to prune and stimulate new growth.

Into the Garden
With the exception of gloxinia, these plants and others such as gardenias and azaleas can make the transition to well-drained garden beds easily. Valentine's tulips, however, should go to the compost since there's little chance of them becoming perennial in our gardens.


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