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Lifestyle

April 12, 2013

Make last year's bulbs this year's blossoms

Q: Guess what I found in the dark, cool cellar this week? There are about a dozen amaryllis bulbs — some are mine, some I rescued from friends who didn’t want to take the time to save them through the winter — so I tossed them in the cellar from last spring. Now, most of them still look dormant, but several show signs of growth — maybe a leaf, but I can’t tell the difference. What do I do with them now? Aren’t they past the blooming season?

A: Aren’t you lucky! Bring them out and water them thoroughly. If they are in clay pots, soak the entire bulb and pot overnight, then drain and place them in a warm sunny windowsill. Many of the bulbs will bloom for Mother’s Day, and you’ll be ready to honor your mother and others who have mothered you over the years.

Q: I’ve got about a dozen tuberous begonia bulbs that I dug and stored away last fall and want to use them this year — when can I plant them in the garden?

A: If you want begonias this summer, you need to start them indoors, right now! With our cold spring and short summer season, we need to start them indoors. If you want to see blooms before August, then give tuberous begonias a six-week head start before planting them in the garden. If we put them into the cold ground too early in the spring, they might rot — or they might survive and eventually sprout around July 4 and bloom a month later. That’s too late! Start tubers now, and they’ll be ready around Memorial Day, the same time that it’s safe to put your houseplants outdoors; nighttime temperatures are reliably in the 50s. Transplant tuberose begonias outdoors in a shady, moist place. Starting tuberous begonias is no big deal — it’s much easier than starting seeds. Start the tubers in individual pots or in flats of moist peat moss or potting soil. Individual pots are easier for just a few tubers, but if you’re growing more than a few tubers, a seed flat will make a dozen or two tubers simpler to handle. To start tubers in a flat or a pot, plant the tuber in damp peat moss. Place each tuber in the moistened peat and press gently into the soil surface — press; do not bury the tuber with peat! Water thoroughly, and do not permit the pots/flats to dry out.

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