CO-Horts Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Amaryllis: the bright spot in our long winter

 By Todd Hagenbuch, Routt County CSU Extension

OK, so I know we typically think of the amaryllis as a Christmas-season plant, but in the Routt County Extension office, they tend to be a Valentine's-season plant. The first week of February saw two of our newer specimens bloom, while over the President's Day weekend my trusty old plant finally burst with color (more on that amazing plant below). Before I go into the stories behind these plants, I want to share some information on what we call ‘amaryllis.’

What we call ‘amaryllis’ may not always be a true amaryllis. According to a great piece written by our friends over at University of Minnesota Extension, the genus Amaryllis comes from the Greek word amarysso, which means “to sparkle.” While these bulbs were imported to the European continent over 200 years ago, the plants we commonly purchase to grow inside are actually hybrids of the genus Hippeastrum and are native to Central and South America. Bulbs of both genus have been known to produce for decades.

The first example I’m showing here is a beautiful deep-red, single-flowered plant that lives up front in our office. The second is a gorgeous deep-red, double-formed plant that has recently moved to the space between my cubicle and our FCS agent Melina Bricker’s space. These plants rise above our walls and are enjoyed by all who enter the Extension Office and have attracted a great deal of attention. While they have both produced only one stalk this year, the flowers were long-lasting and very showy.

These plants are two of several that were brought to the office about three years ago by our dear friend and amazing Colorado Master Gardener volunteer Pat Tormey. Pat didn’t tell us the varieties she had, but she potted several amaryllis and brought them to ‘give away’ to CMGs or other interested parties. While we did pass a few along, we couldn’t help but keep a few of them. Given
Pat’s recent passing, we are so pleased we did since they are a reminder of Pat, her generosity, and the bright-spot she could always provide on an otherwise cold and dreary day.

The third example here is a bright orange or salmon-colored single variety, and its colors change a bit from year-to-year. Like the red ones, this one has produced only one stalk this year, but in the past has produced more. Like the other two, it seems to love the abundant, indirect light our office provides and has thrived here since I brought it from my grandmother’s assisted living center over seven years ago. Every day I see it, it reminds me of her, and when it blooms I think of the many, many flowers she grew over the years that provided me and others so much joy.

If you look at the photo of the salmon-colored plant closely, you’ll note the unusual ‘pot’ Grandma put the bulbs in. As I recollect the story, she was given the bulbs not long after she was married and had nothing to plant them in. Looking for a vessel that would hold them, she threw them into a hand-painted cookie jar that she had been given as a wedding gift not long before. As she was married in July of 1938, I figure these bulbs have been in this cookie jar and blooming every year for nearly 85 years! I suppose I should do something different with them, but as the adage says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As such, they’ll likely continue to live in the cookie jar until they simply give out.

Do you have an amaryllis with a story? If so, share it in the comments below. If not, plant one soon and share it with family and friends; start your own amaryllis story that will help others remember you for decades to come.

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