Question: Is there a way to jumpstart an amaryllis bulb? I have one that has been just sitting for several weeks after potting. The bulb is big, and it seemed firm and healthy when I planted it.

Answer: The spectacular red, pink or white blooms on amaryllis plants make them a popular holiday plant. They’re generally easy to grow, and they do well in the average home.

Some amaryllis bulbs come in a kit, packaged with soil, a container and detailed instructions. I’m going to assume this is the case with your amaryllis. The bulb should grow and bloom if you’ve followed the directions on the packaging, but occasionally a bulb has problems.

It usually takes about two weeks to see the first growth when conditions are ideal but can take a few weeks longer than that. If you haven’t seen something by now, there may a problem that needs attention.

Amaryllis prefer warm growing conditions. If you’ve placed the pot too close to a window, it may not be warm enough, especially at night. If you have an instant-read kitchen thermometer, you can check to make sure the temperature of the soil in the pot is about 65-70 degrees, but be careful you don’t damage the bulb.

Amaryllis also do best in a very bright or partly sunny spot until they begin to bloom. Check your plant occasionally during the day to see if there is bright enough light for at least 6-8 hours during the day.

Have you been watering the bulb? Amaryllis don’t tolerate wet soils. Once you plant the bulb and water it in, it’s best to keep the soil just barely moist. Watering frequently can increase the risk of bulb decay.

You can take the bulb carefully out of the pot and check for roots at the bottom of the bulb. If you do see roots it means the bulb is growing and probably just needs a little more time or a slightly warmer location.

Also check for any dark, mushy spots on the bulb. If you find any decay, discard the bulb.

Christmas tree tips

You’ve been to the Christmas tree lot and chosen a perfectly-shaped tree with sturdy branches and fresh, pliable needles and twigs. You measured the height and width of the area where you’ll put your tree ahead of time, and you know it will fit even after you’ve secured it in your tree stand.

Now that you’ve brought the tree home, how can you keep it looking good? The trick to keeping a Christmas tree in good condition is to treat it the same way you’d treat a fresh-cut flower.

Cut the bottom few inches from the trunk and prop the tree in a bucket of fresh water until you’re ready to bring it indoors.

You wouldn’t put a fresh bouquet of flowers next to a heat register, and you don’t want to do that with your tree, either. It’s probably not possible to avoid furnace vents near your tree but letting dry air from your furnace blow through the tree will quickly dry out the needles, so decide how you can prevent that by redirecting the airflow before you bring your tree into the house.

Don’t place your tree near a fireplace, wood stove or space heater, either. These locations won’t just dry out your tree more quickly, they’re also a fire hazard.

A fresh-cut Christmas tree can use a gallon or more of water every day, so use a tree stand that will hold plenty of water. Once you have your tree stand ready, secure your tree in the stand and fill the water reservoir.

Check the water level twice a day for the first several days and then once every day as water use slows down to make sure the bottom of the trunk is always at least an inch or two down in the water.

Using a daily alarm on your smart phone is an easy way to make sure you remember to do this. You can expect a fresh tree that gets plenty of water every day to stay in good condition until the end of the holiday season.

Just like with fresh-cut flowers, clean water is important for your tree. Use a wet/dry vac, turkey baster or old towels to remove the water if it develops a bad odor or starts to look cloudy or slimy and replace it right away with fresh, clean water.

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