This holiday, give a gift that keeps giving and requires no dusting -- a beautiful amaryllis that is sure to generate smiles from family and friends as they watch the bulb transform into beautiful blossoms.
For the avid gardeners on your list, consider unique varieties. Double Dancing Queen has 8-inch blooms with layers of ruffled snow-white petals adorned with brushstrokes of scarlet red. The flowers of Evergreen amaryllis feature mint green petals, and Wild Amazone has long, recurved petals in a blend of brick-red, maroon, ivory and pale green. Simply nestle the bulbs into decorative bags, as the recipients are likely to have their own containers and potting mix.
Consider giving the do-it-yourselfers on your list a growing kit that includes all the essentials: pot, potting mix, decorative moss to cover the soil and bulb. It's everything they'll need to plant, watch and grow an amaryllis.
New gardeners and those who claim to have a brown thumb will appreciate receiving a pre-planted bulb. You will enjoy the selection and planting process, and the recipient will get to enjoy the satisfaction of growing this no-fuss gift.
Plant the bulbs in a quality potting mix with the top half above the soil surface. Grow a single bulb in a pot that is 7 to 8 inches deep and 5 to 6 inches across with drainage holes. Or group several bulbs together in a larger container.
After planting, water the potting mix thoroughly and place the container in a cool sunny location. Water sparingly until the bulb sprouts, which can take several weeks to a month or more.
Amaryllis can also be grown without any soil at all. Place several inches of pebbles in the bottom of a glass vase or watertight container. Cover the pebbles with water. Set the bulb on top of the pebbles, adding more stones around the bulb to hold it in place, but leaving the top third of the bulb exposed. Add water as needed, keeping it just under and not touching the bottom of the bulb.
Look for unique containers, baskets or other items to showcase these beauties. Check out Longfield Gardens' free downloadable winter-blooming bulbs inspiration book for creative ways to display and decorate your home with amaryllis.
Grow a few extra bulbs so you can enjoy the long-lasting blooms as cut flowers. Wait until the buds are fully formed and soft to the touch. Cut the stems to the desired length and place them in a clean vase with fresh water. Secure the stems in place with colorful stones, ornaments, faux berries or use a vase with a narrow opening.
Create a gift that lasts even longer with a selection of amaryllis bulbs that bloom at different times. Include early blooming bulbs grown in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Alaska with its double white flowers, Opal Star with its single sun bleach red blooms and Cape Horn with jumbo rose pink flowers. Plant these bulbs in early November so your recipient has colorful blooms for the holidays.
Keep the color coming by giving amaryllis from Holland and other areas in the Northern Hemisphere. These bulbs bloom from January through March, depending on the variety and when they are planted. Three or more varieties will provide months of midwinter flowers.
Remind your gift recipient to relax while waiting for their amaryllis to start growing. The bulbs don't sprout until they're ready, and it's impossible to know exactly when that will be. Once the bud begins to emerge, the daily transformation is thrilling to watch.
Giving amaryllis as gifts is sure to bring you and those on your gift list lots of joy. Order bulbs early for the best selection, gather needed accessories and have fun preparing this unique holiday gift.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including "The Midwest Gardener's Handbook" and "Small Space Gardening."