This month’s Plant of the Month usually comes as a Christmas present in a box, complete with pot and growing instructions and, after a month, is left to languish and dry out in a forgotten corner somewhere. I am, of course, referring to that old Christmas present standby, Amaryllis hippeastrum, which is treated as a houseplant, yet here can be safely planted in the garden and left to emerge in a riot of colour year after year.
Originating from South America and the Caribbean, each year an Amaryllis hippeastrum bulb will grow larger and give a more outstanding display anytime during November until late winter provided you treat it right.
Instead of letting the leaves die down after flowering, the secret is to keep the plant actively growing until autumn. Plant with the bulb just protruding in good soil that receives sun and afternoon shade, cut off all flower stems as soon as the blooms fade, fertilise, and your Amaryllis can grow for 10 years or more.
Next time you are given one as a present, remember an Amaryllis is not just for Christmas; instead, plant it in groups for a real flowering show stopper which also has good summer foliage.
On a final note, just because we have had some rain, do not forget all those good resolutions regarding low water planting and garden maintenance. Lawns that have greened over will still cause problems next summer, or even sooner, while beds of water-loving plants like cannas are certain to look scrappy once watering is reduced. Rain temporarily changes the soil’s nature, reducing its alkalinity and freshening up tired plants, but bad times are certain to return. To paraphrase the Bard – one month’s rainfall doth not a lush garden make!