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Growing in water: Meet Leafy, my two-year-old pet amaryllis bulb

Second-year bloom on "Leafy," my indoor amaryllis bulb that has been kept alive on plain water since December 2014. The photo was taken on April 23, 2016. See current photo at bottom of post. Growing flower bulbs in water has become a hobby since we first began to experiment in December 2014 with bulbs of grape hyacinth (muscari) and three varieties of amaryllis. (Last year, we tried fragrant hyacinth.)

After they all flowered, there was the question of what to do with them. The small grape hyacinth bulbs were thrown into the backyard, and they bloomed the following spring wherever they landed -- without planting, pampering or care of any sort. As for the amaryllis bulbs, I had read that if you keep them in a cool, dry, dark place that there's a chance they can be forced into indoor bloom again.

Of my three amaryllis candidates, one wasn't in good shape (the much-photographed, red and white amaryllis 'Splash'). The largest and sturdiest, which previous posts and photos reveal was a 'Magnum' bulb, seemed a good candidate for saving over winter.

Stored in the basement for its cold period to replicate winter, it sprouted a stem and roots and then dried up in the absence of adequate hydration once growth began. Forgetting to put it in a vase with water for its roots was an obvious failing on my part.

I decided to set the third bulb on top of a drinking glass with its roots in water to keep on a window sill and then near a sliding glass door in the kitchen. The bulb spent late spring and all of winter on top of the water-filled drinking glass. In March, new leaves began to emerge. Shown in a March 28, 2016 photo below, my pet bulb, named "Leafy," has the purple-tinged new leaves and stems of  'Double King' amaryllis. It produced a flower bulb without ever being moved into a cold, dark place to replicate a winter chill. Somehow, the kitchen's conditions must be favorable to its growth. This is also a pampered plant. Its water is changed weekly, and while it has leaves, I wipe them off with a damp cloth at least once a month to remove any dust and allow for the maximum sunlight absorption that aids photosynthesis


Leafy in a March 28, 2016 photo. The flower stalk produced the red blooms shown at the top of the page. Leafy had spent all of the summer of 2015 by that window, like a houseplant on water. It happily grew sturdy, vigorous roots that supported its long, deep green leaves. Around November, its leaves began to yellow and dry out.

The same thing is happening this year as the cold from the sliding glass door is causing its leaves to die off. All the leaves will soon shrivel and dry. I will trim away each dead leaf, just as I did last winter, leaving a leafless bulb in its place near the chilly window.

It was a surprise earlier this year when in March the bulb sent up a flower shoot and bloomed less than an month later. A picture of the flower is at the top of this post. Since I was just experimenting and not chronicling its growth as I had in 2015, I, unfortunately,  didn't think to take a "proof" shot including both the bulb and the flower.       

I am hoping Leafy will bloom again next spring. That would mean a third year of flowers from a bulb that thrives despite looking dried and shriveled.

Considering the weight of the leaves and stem when it was approaching bloom, I transferred the bulb from the drinking glass to the top of a larger glass vase (water never touches the bottom of the bulb, as moisture can encourage mold and rotting). Its roots have grown fuller and longer, as shown in the photo below, taken in November 2016.

(Note: For any housekeeping judges out there, the sliding glass door and windows are not dirty because of negligence.  Condensation gets trapped between the double panes, leaving streaks and stains that can't be reached -- a bane of the manufacturer's equally futile attempts at double-paned energy efficiency.)

 Leafy photographed in early November 2016 with long leaves that are now starting to yellow. They will dry up and be trimmed away in the coming weeks, making room for new leaves, and, hopefully, a third year of indoor flowers in early spring. Next season, a taller stand!






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