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Amaryllis bulb photographed by a reader.

How to care for amaryllis after flowering

Q: I've included a photo of the gorgeous amaryllis bulb I purchased from Baker Garden and Gift, Fargo, last November. It's had three flower stalks with several blossoms on each. Now that the flowers have faded, what would you recommend to rebuild the bulb? - Dawn Doetkott, Fargo.

A: Your experience proves the value of choosing large-sized, top-quality bulbs from good sources. Amaryllis bloom quickly after potting because the flowers are already formed inside the bulb. The huskier the bulb, the more prolific the flowers.

Remove the withered blossoms, if you haven't already. Wait to remove the flower stalks until they've also withered. Keep the plant growing in a sunny window, watering as you would other houseplants. Fertilize every two weeks with Miracle Gro.

In late May, move the plant outdoors to accompany other potted patio plants, or sink pot-and-all into a flowerbed after gradually accustoming it to increased outdoor light. Continue watering and fertilizing until bringing it indoors before fall frost. Move to a 50- or 60-degree spot, and stop watering. After a dormancy of eight to 12 weeks, cut off brown, withered leaves, move to a sunny window, and resume watering. Plants usually bloom in about four weeks.

Instead of giving a dormant rest period, amaryllis can be kept growing continuously, but the surest way of triggering flowering is by the dormancy method. Amaryllis can remain in the same pot for three or four years before repotting is necessary.

Q: We're about to move into a house that has lilacs 7 feet high. The neighbors keep theirs trimmed to about 4 or 5 feet high, and we'd like to do the same. Is it OK to clip them now in their dormant stage? - David Poll, West Fargo.

A: There are two options for pruning lilacs. One is during the dormant season, anytime before spring growth begins. This is the preferred time if a drastic cutback is needed for rejuvenation. If lilacs are pruned during the dormant season, they normally won't bloom the upcoming spring because dormant pruning removes the flower buds that were formed the previous summer for this spring's bloom.

The second option for pruning lilacs is immediately after flowering, if you want to preserve this spring's bloom. You have two choices then, depending on whether or not you'd like them to bloom this spring. If this spring's flowers aren't a high priority, then dormant pruning works well, preferably after the coldest weeks of winter are past.

Q: Last spring I was shopping for fruit trees and I noticed the trees at a national chain's garden center were much less expensive than a similar-sized tree at a locally owned garden center, for the same variety. Is there a difference? - Tom S., Fargo.

A: Speaking from experience, there's a great difference. I've noticed that trees from mass merchandisers tend to be poorly pruned, causing a poorly trained basic structure from which trees might not recover. Trees from local garden centers usually have a much stronger branch structure, built by proper pruning and shaping, which is well worth a few extra dollars, considering trees are a long-term investment.

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.

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