Gardening Now

Violas will bloom all winter with care

Growing amaryllis in water – note the fleshy white roots

Orchids like this can last months when cared for correctly.

Our one day is warm one day is cold, as well as off and on rain is a challenge for us gardeners. If you have already planted your violas and pansies, don’t forget they need winter care, too. Remember to pinch off the spent blossoms to keep the plants blooming. Also in warm periods of several days I fertilize the plants with liquid 20-20-20 or similar formula. Mine are blooming now and have been since the day I planted them in the fall. In general violas will bloom better in the winter months than pansies.
Now is a great time to purchase amaryllis bulbs for forcing winter blooms indoors. Buy the biggest bulb they have if it is the color you want. Examine the tip of the bulb to make sure you see green shoots or make sure the bulb has some green on it. The image above shows how you need to remove all the dead roots. At this time of the year it is probably all of the roots on the plants base. I personally just pull them off, but you can cut them too, just make sure you cut as close to the bulb as possible without cutting the bulb. Now you have two choices, place the base only just a hair above the water level and grow the bulb in water, or plant it in a pot with soil. Make sure the soil is moist at planting and then water as needed to keep the soil slightly damp but not wet. The key to getting the beautiful stout stems and blooms is to grow these in a bright sunny location. The reason the flower stems get weak and long is the lack of bright light. Expect blooms in about a month or so. Once they have finished blooming, keep them growing if possible, and they can be planted outdoors after the danger of frost is past. I have a dozen or so in my garden from ones I have enjoyed indoors.
If you got an orchid for the holidays, chances are it was a phalaenopsis. Reasonable in price and widely available they are super flowering plants for the novice. The biggest reason they start dropping their blooms is lack of water or not enough light. Most of the ones I see are in pots with no drainage holes. If this is the case, I usually pour about half cup of water on the orchid bark, let is sit for several minutes and turn upside and drain. Typically I do this weekly. It the container drains, simply water and then empty the water left in the saucer. As for light requirement, they do not need a sunny location, but bright light either from windows or light fixtures are fine.
Plant and bulb sales are popping up, as many garden centers want to reduce their inventories. I always say anytime from now until early January is the best time to plant outdoor bulbs, even if they are in outdoor pots. The bulbs on sale, if they are viable, are fine to plant now. As for shrubs and trees on sale, I frankly plant both all winter except tender shrubs that you take a chance they will survive in our area. So take advantage of the sales. In our climate, now is the time to plant bulbs like daffodils, tulips, and crocus, as well as trees and hardy shrubs.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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