Plants known as holiday amaryllis are really hippeastrums and they are not hardy enough to survive outside in our cold, wet winters.

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In the Garden

Q: I recently saw an amaryllis blooming in a neighbor’s garden. Will my potted holiday amaryllis survive if I plant it outdoors?

A: The plants sold as holiday amaryllis are actually hippeastrums. These South African natives are closely related to the true amaryllis, but hippeastrums aren’t hardy in Western Washington and won’t survive our winters.

I suspect the plant you saw is Amaryllis belladonna, also native to South Africa, but it survives outdoors, as it is hardy to about 10 degrees.

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

“A Fresh Approach to the Urban Landscape:”

7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15. Dr. Ari Novy, executive director of U.S. Botanic Garden, is the guest speaker at the 22nd annual Elisabeth Carey Miller memorial lecture. Request free tickets at info@millergarden.org or 206-362-8612. Address: Meany Hall for the Performing Arts, University of Washington.

millergarden.org/miller-lecture

Northwest Horticultural Society Annual Fall Plant Sale:

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16. Many of the Northwest’s best growers will have plants for sale. Address: Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 N.E. 41st Ave., Seattle.

northwesthort.org

Heronswood Garden Open & Plant Sale:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17. Plant sale, free lectures and self-guided garden tours. Cost: $10 donation. Address: 7530 N.E. 288th St., Kingston.

heronswoodgarden.org

Given the right conditions, it forms large colonies. These plants are commonly known as ‘naked ladies’ because they flower on bare stems before the leaves develop. In late summer, sturdy stems rise up 2 to 3 feet, topped by clusters of multiple fragrant, soft-pink, 4-inch-long, trumpet-like flowers. Soon after the flowers fade, thick, strap-like leaves form 2-feet-tall-and-wide clumps.

The foliage remains throughout winter until early the next summer, then dies back completely to remain dormant until the bare-flowering stems reappear again in late summer.

In fall, the large bulbs are sometimes available at local nurseries, or from mail-order bulb companies. Plant them 1 foot apart with the neck just peeking above the surface, in a well-draining, sunny location. Every year in early April, work organic bulb food into the soil around the clump.

Amaryllis prefer not to be disturbed, but well-established clumps can be dug up and divided. The best time to do it is in fall, right after the blooms fade. If all goes well, divisions usually begin blooming again in one to two years. Some experts recommend dividing them in summer when they are dormant. It won’t harm the bulbs if you dig and divide them during their summer dormant period, but it delays flowering, and chances are you won’t see the spectacular flowers again for several years.

 

Q: How and when should I prune my peach tree?

A: Peach trees require heavy pruning. The best time to prune them is in early spring at about the time flower buds are beginning to swell, but before full bloom.

When pruning a young peach tree, the goal is to develop an open center with 3 to 5 evenly spaced scaffold limbs that spread out from the middle. On mature trees, the tops and ends of the main limbs should be cut back to side shoots every year to maintain the height and spread at around 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide.

Peach trees produce fruit only on one-year-old growth, so it’s important to stimulate new productive shoot growth by heading back most of the shoots that grew the previous year by two-thirds. At the same time, if the center and upper branches are becoming crowded with growth, thin out excess shoots to allow air and sunlight to penetrate to the lower branches.

Peaches tend to be so prolific the weight of the fruit can cause limbs to break. In spring, thin the fruit to no more than one peach per every 5 inches before it is the size of a quarter. Thinning the fruit in this way is definitely time-consuming, but you’ll be rewarded with more consistent crops and bigger, higher-quality fruit, which hopefully will result in a few extra peach pies smothered in whipped cream every season!