My friend Gail is among a number of people who emailed me with what I call a “plant emergency.”

My friend Gail is among a number of people who emailed me with what I call a “plant emergency.”
Over the holidays, they received boxed Amaryllis bulbs and now want to know what to do with them. Luckily for them, there are few things more easy, or beautiful, to grow than Amaryllis.
Amaryllis are the southern hemisphere cousins to our “surprise lilies” that bloom mid-July. Both store their energy in bulbs. After a rest period, exposing them to water makes a stalk grow, sometimes inches a day apart, until the bud flowers.
When the buds are packaged for gifts, they have rested six to eight weeks without water and are ready to grow. Check your gift box. If you received an Amaryllis in a larger box, there should be a disc of dehydrated soil with instructions on how to prepare it. Basically add warm water and let the soil absorb it.
To get an Amaryllis bulb started, plant the bulb in a pot about an inch larger than the bulb with only the root bulb part in soil; the bulb should look like it’s sitting on top of the soil. Water until moist but not water-logged. Place in a sunny window. If your bulb has made a head start, don’t worry. The blanched stem and bud will quickly turn green once exposed to sunshine. The stem also will move toward the sun so if it’s leaning toward the sun source, rotate the plant to make the stem move vertically.
Within a few days of planting, bud tips and possibly leaves will appear at bulb top. Peek at the tip to see what’s going to grow; leaves will be paper thin, a flower bud will be thicker. Once started, the plant stalk will grow every day, sometimes reaching 3 feet high so you may need to add a stick and tie the stem to it to provide support.
Depending on room temperature, the flowers will unfold a little more slowly and last for several weeks. Several buds may bloom at the same time, or you may get successive bud growth. Let the plant grow until leaves are formed or you may miss the second bud bloom.
Once the flowers are finished blooming, leaves will start to sprout. You can cut off the flower stalk. Don’t cut off the leaves; the leaves will re-energize the bulb.
If you only get leaves growing, that’s because the bulb didn’t store enough energy. Keep watered in a sunny spot so bulb can regenerate. After leaves die and bulb rests, it should bloom.
Now one of Gail’s Amaryllis gifts had the bulb encased in plastic. This company cuts off the Amaryllis roots and wraps them in a plastic bulb sleeve. After sticking a metal stand into the bulb bottom, they are marketed as flowering bulbs that don’t need soil or water.
If you don’t want to save the bulb, go ahead and let it bloom, then toss the whole thing. You will find the bulb has literally dissolved inside the plastic sleeve.
If you want to save the Amaryllis bulb, cut off the plastic bulb sleeve; place the bulb in about an inch of soil, then water. Even though roots have been cut off, the bulb will spend energy to grow new ones.
You will still get a flower bud or two but keep an eye on the bulb to make sure its growing at both ends. If the bulb has been too far damaged, the bulb will rot as the plant shoots energy into the stalk and flower bud.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener and beekeeper. Copyright 2016 used with permission by Rolla Daily News and Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@gmail.com.