During the holiday season many different types of plants are available for decorating and display including the spectacular amaryllis.

Amaryllis flowers make a bold statement. Borne on 1 ½ to 2-foot tall stalk, the trumpet-shaped, 6-inch blooms dominate their surroundings. After flowering, the plant produces attractive, bright green leaves, and with a little care will flower year after year.

I learned from the MidAmerican Gardener host Dianne Noland that the flower timing for an amaryllis bulb depends on where it was originally produced. Bulbs are grown commercially in Holland, Brazil, South Africa and Israel. Those produced in the southern hemisphere countries of Brazil and Peru bloom earlier, usually in December. While those produced in Holland flower later into January.

Most amaryllis plants available this time of year are pre-potted and ready to go. Some already have started to grow and just need light and water to continue. However, if you buy an unpotted amaryllis bulb, follow these procedures for potting. Since the bulbs are large and thrive in cramped quarters, allow only one-half inch of space between the bulb and side of the pot. Fill the pot with a good potting soil. Set the bulb so that half of it is above the pot rim. Add more soil to about one-inch from the pot rim. Firm the soil and drench it with lukewarm water until the surplus drains through the bottom hole.

The amaryllis needs heat to start growing so place the pot in a dark, warm, airy space until the first leaves or flower buds show. Then move the amaryllis into a sunny location and water thoroughly. Do not water again until the soil feels dry to the touch. When the flower blooms, move it out of direct sunlight so it will last longer.

If you want to rebloom your amaryllis each year, follow these tips to assure the plant's health and beauty for many seasons. When the flowers fade, return the pot to bright sunlight. Allow the plant to grow a number of long, strap-like leaves to help rebuild the bulb. When danger of frost is past, plunge the pot in your garden where the plant will receive filtered sunlight.

In mid-September the outer leaves will begin to yellow, an indication that the plant needs a rest. Cut all the leaves to within an inch of the neck of the bulb, bring the plant in and stop watering. Store it in a cool spot at 50 to 55 degrees F and forget it until late November or early December. At that time, bring the plant back to the light, replant if needed, begin watering, and watch it grow. When the bulb begins to show signs of growth, start the blooming cycle again.

Start an amaryllis bulb today to brighten your household on a bleak winter day.