Q. My Amaryllis belladonnas have finished blooming. When should the flower stalks be removed? I know that with other bulbs the green leaves are left to feed the bulb for the following year but what about the flower stalks? Also, when is the best time to transplant them?
A. Amaryllis Belladonna is a summer blooming bulb. The only purpose of the flower stalk(s) is to support the blooms. It provides no nutrients to the bulb(s) for the following year; hence, they’re removed any time after flowering. I prefer to remove them soon after the flower fades, otherwise, they look unsightly, as they’ll turn brown before drying up. In addition, the flowers should be removed before they go to seed, as the bulbs may not bloom the next year. Amaryllis Belladonna’s strap leafs emerge in the spring and go dormant in early summer. Shortly thereafter the flower stalk emerges; hence, they’re referred to as the ‘Naked Ladies’. In the United Kingdom, they’re known as the Jersey Lily, the March Lily in South Africa (southern hemisphere) and the Madonna or Belladonna Lily in Italy. Typically, you’ll find several large, pink trumpet shape flowers on a single twenty-four to thirty-six inch flower stalk in July or August. The bulbs can be transplanted in the fall while they are dormant or in the early summer before they flower. By losing its leaves and becoming dormant at the height of the summer watering season, Amaryllis belladonna is an ideal addition to water wise gardens. The bulbs require almost no care, and bloom beautifully almost anywhere. The Naked Ladies bloom for decades and are almost trouble-free, but you can kill them with kindness, that is, excess summer water and fertilizer or from burying them in mulch. Along with other types of amaryllis, Amaryllis Belladonna, the Naked Lady, are now available at many garden centers And, you don’t have to be in hurry to plant them as they can go into the ground as late as February.
Note: It took until 1987 to resolve the generic name issues with the genera, the true Amaryllis is native to South Africa and has solid flower stalks, while the Hippeastrum species is native to South America and has hollow flower stalks. Today, some cultivars of Hippeastrum are commonly called amaryllis.
Q. How do I save sunflower seed for next year? Do I leave it on the stalk, remove it and refrigerate to scarify it somehow?
A. It is not necessary to scarify the seed of herbaceous plants like sunflowers. Scarification is necessary only with woody ornamental plants to crack hard seed coats. As the sunflower matures, the seed separates from the flower head and drops to the ground. The easiest way to gather the seed is to cover the flower with a plastic bag and shake the flower. The mature seed drops into the bag. After you have harvested the seed, I would store it in glass jars and store them in a cool dry location until you’re ready to sow it next spring.
Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is www.dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at email@example.com or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Buzz.Bertolero