houseplants

Scarlet amaryllis flower 2020

Amaryllis Unfolding

I’ve had this one amaryllis among my houseplants for years. Maybe decades. I can’t remember where I got it and have no idea what its variety name is. It’s a basic bright scarlet. No stripes or two-tone effects.

I vaguely recall it blooming long ago and trying various techniques to get it to rebloom — putting it outside for the summer, withholding water when leaves started yellowing, etc. What happened was the bulb split into three smaller bulbs. I potted them individually and grew them on. Sometimes one of them surprised me and put out a bloom stalk, but the bulbs remained small.

I must have figured out the proper treatment somewhere along the line. One bulb, which spent most of the time in an east window, got bigger and fatter. It has bloomed reliably, and this year (after a splendid growth of leaves last spring and summer) decided to form not one, but two bloom stalks. What is strange is that it never had the necessary period of dormancy first. A couple of leaves started to yellow last fall, so I reduced watering in preparation for dormancy during the winter. Instead, the plant sprouted a bud! So I resumed watering and moved it to a south window. A few weeks later, a second bud emerged. Thrills and excitement!

Here is a series of pictures from bud to bloom, January 26th to February 2nd.

Scarlet amaryllis bud opening 2020
Scarlet amaryllis bud opening 2020
Scarlet amaryllis bud unfolding 2020
Scarlet amaryllis buds about to open 2020
Scarlet amaryllis flower 2020
The first of four flowers!
Second amaryllis bud developing 2020
The second bud. Maybe only two flowers rather than four.

scarlet amaryllis

Amaryllis

I’ve had a couple of amaryllis bulbs languishing in pots in a south-facing basement window for years. A purchased bulb bloomed and then split into smaller bulbs, which I dutifully potted up. Most of the time they do nothing but grow leaves now and then, but several weeks ago, to my surprise, I noticed one of them was developing a bud. Great excitement! I brought the plant out of exile to a prime spot on the table in an east-facing bay window.

Two big red flowers opened in due course, and lasted for a full two weeks.

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I’m pretty sure this isn’t the usual time for these plants to bloom. I associate them with late winter, but maybe that’s because they are sold around Christmas time, and are often given as gifts. I recall occasions when mine (probably different manifestations of this same plant) bloomed in September. I reasoned that they may somehow have known it was spring in the southern hemisphere, since their place of origin is South Africa.

Out of season or not, I enjoyed the company of these gaudy and impressive flowers. Now that they have withered, the plant’s new leaves look rather elegant, so I’ll delay its return to the basement.

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The trick now is to manage the plant so it will repeat the performance some day. I won’t even try to guess when that might be.

Trees in the House

Of Henry Mitchell’s collected “Earthman” columns, some of the funniest are about bringing tropical potted plants into the house for the winter. He couldn’t bring the plants in until the rugs had been sent out for cleaning and returned, quite an operation in itself. Inevitably, plant-lugging was left until a severe cold snap threatened, whereupon the job was done by flashlight, with dogs getting in the way and guests expected for dinner. Which guests had to share the living room with large, neck-tickling, leaf-dropping plants. And sometimes things went seriously wrong, as when a bucket containing a palm tree in muddy soil went bumping down a flight of stairs, disgorging its contents all the way.

I have only one large plant that needs to be lugged in and out in spring and autumn — a jade plant whose trunk is six inches in diameter at the base, and which stands almost five feet tall. Today we brought it in, using a handy device called a Potlifter, a set of adjustable straps and handles designed specifically to make carrying large potted plants quite easy for two reasonably fit people. Since the straps are permanently adjusted for the jade plant’s pot, it took hardly any time to strap it in and carry it to its winter location.

October 13, 2013

The jade plant is an inside/outside tenant, but I also have three quite large plants that stay inside year round, and I’m beginning to wonder whether they should be evicted. Two are weeping figs (Ficus benjamina), one plain, one variegated; the other is a young rubber plant (Ficus elastica). Right now it’s about five feet tall, but in another year or so it will be scraping the ceiling. Previous specimens, once topped, did not branch gracefully but ended up resembling leafy gibbets. One grew sideways in an amazing manner and was finally dispatched. Before doing it in, I air-layered the present plant, doing so only because the original (the “ur plant”) was acquired by my mother in Pittsburgh more than 50 years ago. The present manifestation has therefore acquired a kind of numinous aura. If I kill this last scion, what kind of bad karma will I create? As for the weepers, I would happily give them away (assuming anyone would want them), but I rather like their pots and would want to keep them. Niggardly, I know, which is why the two continue to occupy a good portion of my living room, shedding leaves at regular intervals. (I wonder if that’s why they’re called “weeping’).

It’s ironic that I have similar situations outside and inside — big trees. One day, the axe will fall. One day.