Fielding Questions: A prolific amaryllis, an ailing lemon tree and seed-planting depth
Q: This Christmas I received a potted amaryllis bulb from my granddaughter, which she bought at Walmart. I have never experienced an amaryllis this prolific. It’s been amazing with four flower stalks and a total of 17 flowers between Jan. 9 and 31. I thought on a wintry day, perhaps a pretty flower photo for your column might be appropriate. — Susan Clambey, Moorhead.
A: Thanks, Susan, for sharing a truly outstanding amaryllis story. Most of us consider ourselves lucky if our amaryllis produces two stalks, or three if we’re lucky, but four stalks is superb.
Susan continues: “This seems like it might be a record. I gently tied the four flower stalks together, and had to lean it on a hanging hoya plant for support. The final five blossoms are just now fading on the stalks.”
I couldn’t locate any information about a record-holder, but generally the larger the amaryllis bulb, the greater the output. For example, top-sized bulbs 34 to 36 centimeters in diameter commonly produce up to three stems with four to five flowers per stem. Your bulb producing 17 flowers on four stems is certainly one for the record books.
Q: I have a lemon tree that has two lemons on it, but the leaves are falling off. It’s in a good window, and the other tropical plants are doing well. What can I do to save this plant? — Joe Grotjohn.
A: Lemons are a fun plant to grow indoors and can successfully produce fruit, and the Meyer lemon is a popular indoor type. Leaves falling from the lemon plant shows it’s reacting to something it doesn’t like.
My first thought is insect pests, such as the nearly invisible spider mites, which are common on citrus indoors. If possible, give the plant a gentle shower, rinsing upper and lower leaf surfaces. Then spray with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Citrus plants require organic, acid-type soil, such as mixes high in peat moss. Fertilize monthly as daylength increases March through September with a fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants.
University research says the preferred indoor temperature for lemons is 65 degrees, with a drop of 5 to 10 degrees at night. Increased indoor humidity also keeps citrus happy. Water as needed, but don’t keep soil continually soggy.
Q: I’m planning to start seeds indoors this spring to grow some of my own vegetable and flower transplants, but I’m new to this. How do you know how deep to plant the seeds, or how much mix to cover them with? — Sam H., Bismarck.
A: Seeds vary greatly in size, and that determines how deeply to plant. Small seeds are planted very shallowly and large seeds receive a deeper covering. One rule of thumb sometimes seen in literature is to cover seeds two or three times the seed’s diameter, but I’ve found that a little difficult to implement.
A simple and effective method I use is this: If seeds are small, about the size of the poppy seeds you see on the top of bread rolls, just sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the seeding mix and gently pat the surface lightly by hand. The next step of watering will give them just the right amount of soil contact. Petunia seed is a good example. For seeds larger than poppy seed, spread the seed, then sprinkle just enough mix over them so you can no longer see the seed.
When seeding indoors, there’s usually greater danger in planting too deep than too shallow, especially with small seeds.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.