Monday, August 1, 2011

Dividing Amaryllis This Fall


This fall consider dividing overly zealous perennials. In particular, the lovely Amaryllis Belladonna need division occasionally. In making a new pathway it was necessary to move an established group and it was surprising to find their underground conditions were absolutely deplorable. The mass of bulbs had grown to the size of a large bushel basket, with both large and small bulbs growing sideways, downward and oftentimes strangled, covered by the roots and presence of other bulbs. Some were even growing into other each other! Overwhelmed with guilt I realized they had been left undisturbed over twenty years and the original six bulbs had morphed into literally hundreds that were choking each other! Poor bulbs! With little care they will bloom faithfully for over seventy years so they deserve decent lodgings.

To divide use a garden fork which will not cause as much damage the roots as a shovel and dig at the mound-edge in a large circular pattern. Begin to gently lift, easing the mass from the ground, attempting to get most of the roots which are attached. Rinse the mass of bulbs off with the hose and begin by carefully separating the entwined roots. Once they are divided, separate the smaller bulbs from the larger by placing them in two piles. Trim off any yellow or unhealthy foliage but leave healthy, green foliage attached. While the bulbs are out of their bed, take the opportunity to turn the soil and incorporate some compost, rotted manure or peat moss to enrich it even if you are planting them back from whence they came. Do the same if you are planning a new bed.

Replant the largest bulbs and remember not to plant too deeply or flowering will decrease. Bulbs are generally spaced about 8 inches apart and show best in the garden when planted in clumps of three or more. Pick a new spot in the garden to plant the smaller bulbs and do not expect them to flower the first year for it will take a bit of time for them to grow and become flowering adults.

When next summer comes, keep in mind they produce seed pods at the end of the stalks if the flowers were pollinated. Unless you are breeding Amaryllis or just want to try your hand at growing them from seed, promptly cut the stalks back after the flowers fade to preserve the energy of the bulb for future flowering. Wait for Fall and have fun digging!