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Reader shares handy amaryllis tips

A reader shared tips for successfully caring for amaryllis for many years. Special to Forum News Service

Q: l thought you'd enjoy a picture of my mother's amaryllis. She's maintained several plants for many years. They are such a unique plant and flower. — Dawn Lelm

A: I'm always fascinated by what everyone is growing and what methods they've found successful, and so I asked Dawn to share her mother's tips for coaxing amaryllis to rebloom for so many years. Dawn writes, "My mother, Joan Simmer, Rothsay, Minn., just laughed when I asked her what she does with her amaryllis plants. She said she 'carelessly' follows their recommended care and received her original amaryllis as a gift more than 30 years ago. She gives her plants a dormant phase from October until the end of January in a basement closet with no light or water. When the plants are brought out, she usually repots in new soil after removing most old dirt from roots. Then the plants are placed in south windows in her basement, but not watered until the buds begin poking through the soil, and are occasionally fertilized with Miracle Gro. She removes the flowers as they wilt but doesn't cut the stalk down until it falls over. The plants aren't summered outdoors, as she feels it's too easy to forget to water them. Mom says it must be nearly impossible to kill amaryllis." Thanks Dawn and Joan!

Q: Last fall I brought several geraniums indoors, and they grew very well. In March, I cut them way back and fertilized with Miracle Grow once a week. They get eastern and southern sun most of the day, and the foliage is wonderful but there are no buds forming. Do the plants need to get larger? What do you suggest? — Connie Brandt, Wahpeton, N.D.

A: Geraniums are one of the most rewarding plants to bring indoors in fall for wintering in sunny windows or under fluorescent lights with the goal of returning them outdoors in spring. Cutting plants back in March is a great way to encourage healthy, stocky growth while eliminating winter's gangly growth. Your regular fertilizing provides the nutrition for healthy leaves and flower bud formation. Your flower buds will soon come, as the plants get slightly more robust. Keep doing what you're doing. When you can, as weather moderates, accustom the plants to outdoor conditions by first setting them in a wind-protected spot in filtered sunlight. Gradually increase exposure to sun and air movement. If geraniums grown indoors are moved directly to full outdoor sun, tender leaves easily burn.

Q: When planting potatoes, I've heard it's important to let the cut-up seed pieces sit for a day before planting. Is that necessary? — T. Nelson, Bismarck.

A: Most university potato researchers recommend cutting seed potatoes into blocky chunks that have at least two eyes for home garden planting, and then spreading the pieces in shallow containers (the garage is usually fine) to 'suberize' or heal over, which helps prevent rotting after planting. Although commercial growers might suberize the pieces longer, even a two-day period is beneficial for home gardeners. An alternative to cutting larger tubers is using small egg-sized tubers, planted whole. For best results, use certified seed potatoes, monitored to be disease-free.