A. The plants that you have are probably a hybrid Amaryllis or Hippeastrium.  This name is derived by hippeaus, a knight and astron, a star.  This tender flowering bulb was first discovered by a young physician from Leipzig, Eduard Poeppig, while on a plant hunting expedition in Chile.  Although we frequently see these beautiful plants for sale in pots around Christmas time, they can be raised very successfully out of doors in mild climates, such as we have in the Galveston-Houston area.

Amaryllis can be propagated four different ways: cultivation of seeds, removing or dividing offsets from the mother bulb, cuttage or bulb sectioning and tissue culture.  Commercial propagation must maintain the true culture characteristics of the parent, and is carried out by the latter three methods because seeds do not always "come true" to the mother plant.

I would like to point out, however, that the outstanding selection and vigor seen in commercial plants is a result of cross fertilizing different species or varieties of plants.  It is also an exciting exercise for the patient gardener, since it takes 2-4 years to progress from seed to a blooming plant.

When mature and healthy, bulbs will often produce a second and smaller bulb or offset, just to the side of the mother bulb.  The new bulb can be removed by gently breaking it away or cutting it with a sharp knife after flowering is complete.  The offset can then be planted to mature and bloom the following season. In all cases bulbs should be planted with at least 1/3 of the bulb showing above the soil line.

Cuttage, or re-sectioning, is carried out by making numerous vertical cuts through the bulb from top to root.  Each section or piece must leave a portion of the stem tissue or basal plat of the bulb attached to the bottom, or scale portion.  The best time to section bulbs from the garden is August to November.  Each freshly cut section of the bulb should be dusted with ferbam or thiram to minimize disease before planting in a mixture of peat moss and sand.

Tissue culture is a rapidly increasing method of producing plants on a commercial scale, but it requires equipment, facilities and experience that are beyond the scope of most gardeners.

Although natural pollination by insects can occur, it is best to carry out the pollination process with a small artist brush if you want to propagate from seed.  Gently gather pollen from several mature stamens on the brush and apply it to a receptor pistil.  The stamens are mature when the pollen is easily picked up on the brush and the pistil is mature when it begins to spread out with a slight backward arch to each of the three segments.

You will know that fertilization has occurred when the ovary, which is the slightly enlarged green area at the base of the bloom, begins to swell as the flower withers.  The fertilized ovary will continue to enlarge until it is 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, with clear segmentation.  The fertile seed pod will change from green to a papery brown as the seeds mature.

Shortly after turning brown, the seed pod will split open along its segmentation lines, revealing stacks of wafer-like, black seeds.  Collect the seed, spread them to dry for a day or two and then plant them.

Planting of the seeds can be carried out in several ways.  They can be placed on the surface of moist potting soil in seed flats or large pots, then covered with a sheet of plastic or glass to maintain a humid environment for the sprouting seeds.  If the weather is warm enough, they can be sown in a very shallow furrow and covered ever so slightly with fine soil to keep them from blowing.  I have had very good results sprouting the seed on hydrated floral foam, such as Oasis.  It is available in the fresh floral arranging section of most craft stores and from places where fresh flowers are sold.  Only a small number of the seeds from each pod will be mature enough to germinate, so do not be discouraged if your germination rate is not as high as you are expecting.

The young plants will look very much like a small green onion or chive as they develop.  When you see white roots developing, carefully transplant the seedlings to individual pots filled with a good, loose potting mix.  Feed them regularly with dilute, balanced fertilizer and maintain them in a slightly shaded area so that they do not dry out.  If you have planted the seeds in a furrow out of doors, you should gently redistribute the seedlings approximately 2-3 inches apart.  In all methods of planting, keep the planting soil evenly moist but not wet.

Continue to nurture your seedlings as you would a mature bulb.  Although it takes a modicum of patience and time to bring your plants to flower, you will find that the wait has all the excitement of opening a beautifully wrapped package at Christmas to see what is inside.


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