Ask the Gardener: Amaryllis flowering early, ornamental grass and more

Posted on: September 20, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

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(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

flowering amaryllis

Question 1: Flowering amaryllis

Jane: I have enjoyed amaryllis for a number of years at Christmas and then again in February/March but the attached photo is a new one for me. I had two plants outside and was away for a couple of days. This is what I found when I returned. Have you ever had one bloom at this time of the year? Of course I am loving it but wonder what this will mean for next spring for this plant.

Doug: What a wonderful surprise. Many times amaryllis have a mind of their own and will bloom when they are ready. It’s very common for them to bloom out of season when we keep them for years. These are the flowers for this year; it will bloom again next season.

If you wanted to try and control the bloom time, you might be able to, but I like to see them bloom off season. The trick is to try and put them into dormancy around August by bringing them in and drying them out. Then they will usually emerge around the holidays.

Question 2: Moving amaryllis

Fred: I just removed my amaryllis from the garden, and they are really healthy. Do I simply let them dry out for about 30-60 days then replant? Do I cut tops off? Finally, should I trim roots?

Doug: Stop watering and/or fertilizing, then just let them dry out until the foliage dies back on its own. That’s how the bulb gets its energy. Then store the bulb in a cool dark place for eight weeks or so. Bring it back to the windowsill, start watering and hopefully it will produce flowers. If not, it will be all foliage for another year.

Question 3: Ornamental grass

Holly: Do you know of any tall varieties of ornamental grass that will grow in a shady corner of my garden? I need something tall that likes a shady area.

Doug: Most tall grasses are better suited to sun but will grow with some shade. I’ve got zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) growing in the shade, and it gets about six feet tall. It’s just not as upright as it would be in the sun and it doesn’t spread as well. River oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) gets about four feet tall and will tolerate shade. Fall-blooming reed grass (Calamagrostis arundinacea) would grow in shade too and gets over four feet tall.

lonicera reticulata

Question 4: Mystery plant

Rebecca: I’m a Minneapolis transplant from Pittsburgh and love what you do! My daughter and I are trying to identify this beautiful plant. Can you help?

Doug: I’m stumped, never seen it before. I’ll send it around to some friends and see what I can figure out.

Rebecca: Soooo my daughter came up with this: lonicera reticulata. It’s a type of honeysuckle. Who knew?

Doug: I was looking at honeysuckle, but I couldn’t find one that looked like that. How cool.

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