Clivia. Veltheimia. Amaryllis. These plants have two things in common. First is that they reliably provide big, bright blooms in the middle of winter. Second is that I have told you about them repeatedly over the years and you still don't have any.OK, maybe you got an amaryllis. They're hard to avoid this time of year, with boxes piled in grocery stores and drug stores and megamarts. By now many have blossoms bursting out of the box, which gives you an idea of how easy they are. Often when the flowers have come and gone in the stores, they are drastically marked down, and that's when I buy.

This year's amaryllis will bloom again next winter at a fraction of the price, and it's easy, but you must follow the program. After they bloom, cut the withered flower off. Leaves will grow, if they haven't already. Put the pot in a sunny window and treat it like any houseplant, watering normally. When the weather warms, put it outside in part sun and feed it regularly.

In fall bring it in, shove it in the basement, and forget it. No water. Here is where people go wrong: Don't cut the leaves off.

Let them die and dry until they come free with a gentle tug.

In a few weeks a bud will appear in the neck. Bring the pot into the living room, water it - lightly at first - and enjoy the second year of bloom. Repeat.

Clivia and veltheimia are harder to find, but they are better to have. They are easier and the flowers last longer, several weeks in fact.

Clivia is a pricey plant, but unless you make a determined effort to kill it, it will last decades, getting bigger and better every year. I have often said that if you have only one house-plant, it should be a clivia.

Clivia is a handsome plant year round, with broad strap-like leaves in dark green. It will take considerable abuse and is one of the few houseplants that will really take low light conditions.

Most of the other low light plants don't give you any significant flowers, but clivia in the middle of winter produces grapefruit-sized, long lasting, bright orange blossoms. What more could you ask?

Care couldn't be easier. For most of the winter it doesn't even need watering. Just dusting.

I will say, in a rare fit of honesty, that if there is a mealy bug in the neighborhood, it will find your clivia. Mine have had them for years. Like a chronic disease, you don't cure it; you manage it. That means once, maybe twice during the winter you take a pan of warm water and a sponge and wipe the leaves down. I look at it as an opportunity to do some hands-on gardening in February.

If you are lucky you may find blooming clivia in Lowe's or Home Depot or an upscale garden center this time of year. Don't be stunned by the price. Remember that it will last many years, even with your care.

I have never seen a veltheimia in a retail store, though. You can order it from mzbulb.com, and even with shipping and handling, it's cheaper than clivia. But you can't do it now. They ship in summer, when they are dormant.

Veltheimia is a bulb that grows frilly leaves in fall followed in winter by tall, pink, cone-shaped flowers that last for weeks. And they multiply, so before long you'll have many. Then in spring they go dormant, so you don't have to fuss with them when you have better things to do outside in the garden.

You can see some of my winter flowers at www.flickr.com/photos/duanecampbell. Since you continue to ignore my advice to get some for yourself. That is probably the only way you'll see these flowers.

comments powered by Disqus