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Garden Help Desk: Solving mushroom mysteries and re-blooming a Christmas amaryllis

By USU Extension - | Feb 5, 2022

Courtesy photo

These mushrooms are in a dry walkway between raised garden beds. There is just enough moisture and shade from the bed for harmless fungi to grow beneath the mulch.

I have been a gardener for 30-plus years. I’ve never seen this before. Please see the pics from last fall that I’ve attached. What is it? It’s mainly in this one big area which we mulched with the mulch from green waste.

These strange-looking structures are some kind of mushroom, the fruiting bodies of fungal organisms that are feeding on your mulch. The fresh mulch is rich in organic matter, the perfect food for those fungi. In general, the fungi you find feeding on mulch are saprophytic, meaning they feed on dead organic matter, and they are harmless to plants. They are one of nature’s important decomposers and provide a valuable service in our yards and gardens.

When mulch has frequent mushroom “outbreaks” excess moisture is often part of the problem. Raking and stirring the mulch in shady areas will help to dry out the mulch. There are no sprays that effectively eliminate mushrooms in landscapes, so there is no benefit in purchasing and applying fungicide products for your mulch.

So, what can you do about your mushrooms? You have a couple of options. 1) you can pull out or dig out the mushrooms and rake the mulch every couple of weeks, especially after rainfall. 2) you can ignore the mushrooms and think of them as “nature at work” in your landscape.

There are quite a few different mushroom species that will grow on mulch in our area. I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly what species this is or whether the mushrooms are safe to eat.

Courtesy photo

A thick layer of mulch may look dry on the surface but have enough moisture below to support the growth of fungi and the production of fruiting bodies (mushrooms).

I want to keep my Christmas amaryllis and have it bloom again. How hard is it to do that?

The most difficult part about re-blooming an amaryllis is being patient. Other than that, it’s just basic good plant care for the next several months.

You didn’t mention whether your amaryllis bulb is growing in soil or water, but either way, remove the flowers as they fade. Once your plant is done flowering, cut the flower stalk back to about one inch above the bulb. Don’t remove any leaves that have developed.

If your bulb was growing in water, you’ll need to transplant it into a pot with drainage holes and freely draining potting soil. Amaryllis bulbs like to be crowded, but they also will need room for their roots, so choose a pot that will allow several inches of soil beneath the bulb and only an inch or so of space around the bulb. The top half of the bulb should be above the soil line.

Your bulb should develop a few long leaves and those leaves will need sunshine to product the carbohydrates that will fuel next year’s blooms. Give your plant as much bright light as possible until we’re past the danger of frost. Then you can move the pot outside where it your amaryllis will get plenty of morning sun and light or dappled shade during our hot afternoons.

Courtesy photo

Amaryllis bulb growing before repotting.

Don’t overwater! You want the bulb to stay dry and the soil to be just barely moist. Wet soil will damage or kill your plant, so only water when the upper soil is dry.

Keep the leaves green and healthy by fertilizing with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer once or twice a month until late summer.

Amaryllis will re-bloom on their own once they’ve had enough sun, but if you want to have blooms for the Christmas season, you’ll need to give your amaryllis a rest for a few months at the end of the summer. Stop watering and fertilizing and move your plant to a cool, dry spot. An unheated basement room would be ideal. Don’t panic if the leaves start to yellow and wither; that’s what they’re supposed to do.

After a few months of rest your amaryllis will be ready for good indoor plant care again. Repot your bulb in fresh potting soil and water it well. Then place the pot in a cool location with the brightest light possible. Water infrequently, letting the soil dry out between waterings until you see active growth again.

Once you see active growth, you can resume occasional watering to keep the soil barely moist and the bulb dry.

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