The Highlander

Tips from an Amateur Plant Mom

Annette Ritzko, Web Editor

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Last year my wonderful friend Leah gifted me an amaryllis, or an Amaryllis belladonna, growing kit. Growing it appeared to be simple enough because it came with easy instructions and all the necessary supplies, such as a plastic pot, a dirt pellet and the bulb itself. Being a rather lazy person, I had set it aside to grow at a different time.

Leah had gotten the same kit for herself and related news of the plant’s growth. After hers started to sprout, I got excited enough to start mine. Eventually the day came when Leah announced the good news: Her amaryllis was blooming. I was excited for her, but mine had barely grown a leaf.

Another leaf popped up over the summer, and these two leaves continued to grow until the plant looked like a bunny with two ridiculously long ears. As the year went on, the leaves got longer until it started to wither one fateful autumn day.

I am not quite sure where I had gone wrong during the care of my amaryllis, and looking back, maybe I could have saved the bulb if I had cut the leaves sooner, dried it and repotted it.  I may also have received the “dud” in the batch. or perhaps I should have started growing it sooner. Either way, I looked up some basic care instructions just in case you’re lucky enough to receive one as a gift.

An amaryllis kit will usually include the growing necessities; however, as one may assume, the quality of the materials may not be ideal. First, you need to find a proper pot to plant the bulb in. The plastic pot in the kit may be the perfect size, an inch or two wider than the diameter of the bulb and deep enough for an inch or two of soil beneath it, but it may lack drainage holes, which are vital to prevent rotting. You may also want a heavier pot since the plant is pretty top-heavy after it blooms, plus clay and stoneware pots are prettier.

Next, either use the dirt pellet or get potting soil, not regular garden soil, and dampen it lightly to help situate the bulb. Position the bulb so that the top third, the sprout and a bit of the brown bulb is above the soil, and then tightly pack it.

Place the pot in a cool, bright area and water sparingly until you see two inches of new growth. While it is growing, water regularly, and blooming should occur within five to eight weeks. For more information on amaryllis care and a proper amaryllis bloom chart, go to gardeners.com.

I truly wish my amaryllis experience had been better since it was such a thoughtful gift. Gifting the joy of growing a plant is a wonderful idea, but it can be done without having to buy the pre-made plant kits. There are many ways you can make kits and for many different types of plants.

You can even give the chef in your family an herb starting kit. The needed materials:

  • Seed packets of choosing
  • Paper egg cartons – To plant the seeds in and to put all the materials in. The six-egg cartons are better for transporting, but you can also cut big cartons in half.
  • Recommended soil for herbs
  • Plastic sandwich bags- To put the soil in for easy transporting
  • Optional- Decorations (i.e., twine, ribbon and tags), plant food, trowel, plant markers, etc.

Variations on this kit include switching the egg carton to a terra cotta pot and saucer and using the saucer as a lid. You can also have a theme for your kit by providing specific decorations and flower seeds. Many other kit ideas can be found with a simple search online. Just be creative and have fun when making your kit!

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Tips from an Amateur Plant Mom