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macthayer

Help! I Think my Amaryllis is dying!

macthayer
13 years ago

I received two Amaryllis bulbs for Christmas. They put out lots of foliage, but no blooms (they were supposed to be pink and white - can't recall the name). I left them in the pots they came in, watered them sparingly, and kept them in a bright window (Eastern exposure). They continued to put out lots of lovely leaves, but no stalks. So I decided it "wasn't their time", and perhaps they would be better off re-potted. When I repotted them, I found them terribly root-bound, with roots just circling the pot. The roots were dry, intact, and there was no evidence of root rot at this point. I gently loosened the roots and potted them up into pots that are 2 inches wider than the bulb on each side. I had read on this post that some people put theirs outdoors and they develop very long roots, so I wanted to give them plenty of room to grow. That was about a month ago. I have not watered them since. However, my water meter says that the bottoms of the pots are still "wet" (4 on a scale of 1 to 4) and I'm having some leaves dying and turning yellow. I'm afraid my roots are rotting! I promise you that other than the moisture in the potting mix when I potted them up, I have not added one drop of moisture. I also put them in clay pots (unglazed) to aid evaporation and hopefully prevent a problem like this. I used tons of perlite to keep the soil mix very light. I just don't know why this is happening. Would it do any good to repot them now, and if so, how would you do it? Many thanks for any help you can offer! MacThayer

Comments (18)

  • kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Oh...I'll be interested to hear what the experts have to say. Are you absolutely sure your water meter is working?? Like Jodi, I like to use my finger and stick it down in the soil...I've always had good luck with that!

    When I got my bulbs these past couple of months, of course the roots were very dry. I soaked the roots (only) for 12 hours (+/-) and potted them, then watered them in. We have gotten some heavy rains (7 inches last Monday) and I have them potted in a Miracle Grow mix with moisture control. I've used that mix for a couple of years with no rot (knock on wood).

    I know that Wisconsin was very cold, then got Spring and now is very cold again. Don't know if that might have something to do with it. Will defer to the experts, but I've been watering my new bulbs once a week (we are already HOT here in Spring, TX), and let Mother Nature help too. Mine are doing well. To me, it sounds like your bulb is drying out.
    Kristi

  • macthayer
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Hi Kristi. Thanks for responding. Yes, it has been cold here, but I wanted to keep the Amaryllis indoors, which is the reason for the large pots. I suppose the only effect the temperatures have had is to keep the furnace on longer and the air drier. Anyway, the reason I got this water meter is to AVOID these kinds of problems! I've now committed myself to some sort of action because I just unpotted one of the Amaryllis. I tried the "finger down the side" method, and was starting to feel moisture, but also found some rotting roots, so I unpotted the whole thing. Long story short: all those lovely roots have rotted away! I can see where there are 4 fresh, new ones coming out of the bulb, but of course they are in the area of "no moisture" so your take on the plant not getting moisture is essentially correct. So what do I do now? Trim off the rotten ones and repot it? Do I also cut back the foliage? Please give me some ideas on improving drainage. I put one of those new "air vents" in the bottoms of the pots -- they're supposed to improve drainage too -- obviously didn't do enough. I used a light, soil-less potting mixture with LOTS of extra perlite. I'd really love to be able to grow these beauties (and seem to have a green thumb elsewhere), so where did I go wrong with this plant? Help! MacThayer

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  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Welcome to the forum, Mac! I'm in zone 5, Central Illinois, so I can relate to indoor growing very well... first of all, DO NOT cut off the foliage! I don't necessarily think your bulbs are dying, but it wouldn't hurt to care for them properly right now, beginning with a re-pot in well-draining medium and a light dusting of anti-fungal powder...

    For the most part, hippeastrum bulbs are fairly forgiving when it comes to re-potting. My advice is to choose a clay pot about 2 or 3 inches wider around than your bulb and fairly deep to give the roots room to grow. Use a potting medium that's very well-draining. I'll talk a little bit about medium later in the post. No need to use a layer of anything in the bottom of the pot, unless you use a small piece of screen to cover the drainage hole and keep the soil inside the pot.

    Remove any dead or rotten roots... also, remove any dead leaves and outer layers of the bulb that may be dead and dried up or papery. At this point, I usually dust the bulb lightly with Captan, an anti-fungal powder. This helps keep the bulb from rotting. I also dust a little rooting hormone powder on the root area and basal plate.

    Pot the bulb as you would, allowing about a half to two thirds of the bulb to remain above soil level. Lightly moisten and mix the medium before using it to pot up the bulb... this helps evenly distribute moisture when you water in plants. Lightly tamp down the medium around the bulb, and water it in until you see water come out the bottom of the pot. Allow it to drain, and dump any remaining water left in the saucer. You may want to stake and tie up the leaves so they don't flop all over the place, and label your bulb so you know what variety it is, if you already know.

    Let's talk about soil... in our climate, we want a soil that drains well and doesn't hold too much moisture for too long... this can cause the bulbs and roots to rot. Hippeastrums prefer to dry out a bit in between waterings, and they hate "wet feet"! They almost thrive on neglect, it seems... within reason, of course! I've played around with different medium mixes for a while now, and I've recently learned a lot about what constitutes a good container mix, and why... and I've also learned a bit about proper watering and how water and soil affect container plants, etc...

    Below, I've posted a link to a fabulously informational thread over at the Container Gardening Forum. It discusses soils and water, and how it all works in containers. It's an eye-opener, and it helped me understand the how and why of good container gardening. It also led me to the perfect medium for my bulbs, which are all thriving now, thanks to Al (tapla) at the Container Gardening Forum, and his recipes for container mediums!

    Please read some of the other articles written by Al (tapla)... they are very educational and will help immensely if container gardening is something you do a lot of.

    I have a moisture meter, too... but I don't trust it as much as I trust my finger. If you don't want to stick a finger down into the medium to around root level, you can use a bamboo skewer, available at any grocery store at about a dollar a pack. Stick the pointed end of the skewer into the soil until it sits at about root level and leave it there... take it out every once in a while and press it to your cheek... if you feel moisture, it's too soon to water... if the skewer comes out dry, water.

    Hippeastrums are heavy feeders while in growth mode, so you'll want to fertilize. I use MiracleGro for houseplants at a diluted rate, and it seems to keep my bulbs happy. Others use different fertilizers... whatever works for you is fine.

    I think the most important things to consider are the medium you use, and proper watering. Climate is another thing we need to consider... we're northerners, and we must grow indoors part of the year.

    Now... go to the Container Gardening Forum and read those articles! They will help you understand container mediums and proper watering! Good Luck... and if you have any other questions, we're all happy to try and help!

    Oh, and don't be alarmed if your bulbs lose a few leaves now and then... some die of old age, after they've done their part to help feed the bulb... photosynthesis, etc... as long as new leaves emerge at intervals, and the bulb itself remains firm and healthy, everything is fine.

    A green thumb is nothing more than applied knowledge!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention

  • macthayer
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Jokik -- Thank you so much for pointing me in the right direction! You're right, that whole discussion on the container site was fascinating. I now understand a lot more about what I've been doing wrong, not just with these bulbs, but with other plants. (No wonder my roots never went all the way to the bottom of a pot!) Anyway, I've printed out several pages of that forum, along with his "recipe", and I'm headed for my garden center to collect all the right ingredients.

    Just as an aside, I've taken both bulbs out of their pots and removed the rotten roots. Each has new, fresh roots growing, so I set them in a tiny amount of water -- just enough to cover the roots - until I can re-pot them. That should be tonight or tomorrow, as I don't want to leave them sitting in water (and yes, I do know some people grow them that way, but with the recent problem with rot, I didn't want to leave them sitting in water.) Thanks again for your help and kindness. No matter how much I know (and my friends consider me to be the "expert" when it comes to gardening) it never ceases to amaze me how much more there is to learn about growing plants. Which is why I love it so much, of course! MacThayer

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    You're very welcome! Gardening is a passion for me, and I'm always happy to share any usable knowledge I've gained! I consider myself to be much more than a novice when it comes to gardening, having done so for most of my life, but I find myself constantly learning new things about plants and soils and fertilizers, pollination, genetics and breeding, seeds and plant growth... and so much more! And each type of plant has a different set of "rules" for proper culture, so growing bulbs is quite different than growing roses, for instance, and requires researching in a different direction.

    There are marked differences between container gardening and growing in outdoor beds, and it's taken me a while to find good information that I can actually read and understand, written in laymen's terms... in depth scientific explanations are tedious reading and sometimes over my head! But, I constantly read and research, trying to do the best that I can for my plants and gardens. Trial and error and experimentation play a part in learning, as well... there's nothing like "hands on" to teach a person a thing or two!

    Gardening of any kind is for sharing... and it makes me happy to know that I've helped enable someone, and perhaps given them a deeper interest in finding out more about the subject of growing plants!

    I wish you the best of luck in getting your bulbs to grow well... and hopefully, you will see blooms next year!

  • sarmadsaeed_hotmail_com
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Friends, to prevent 'basal rot', drench the soil with any antifungus containing 'thiophanate methyl' once or twice a year, especially when leaves start emerging. Two gram of antifungus powder in one liter of water is the dose. The solution should reach the basal-plate and the roots. If a bulb is affected with basal rot, wash away all the soil around the roots. Remove affected scales and roots. Remove the rotted part of the basal plate and apply anti-fungus, preferably rooting hormone containing anti-fungus. Plant the remains of the bulb in small terra cotta planter and water it sparingly.

  • elizabeth_jb
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    In the past, I have used CAPTAN wettable powder. It works great, but I am running low on supply and will have to order it again online if I cannot find it locally. It is often used on Horses, believe it or not, so sometimes, I can find it in unusual places.

    Cleary's 3336 is also heavily recommended for ornamental bulbs. Unfortunately, it is also difficult to find locally and online, you will pay a fortune for it.

    However, I discovered that Scott's Lawn Fungus control contains 'thiophanate methyl' and that product is even available in my Walmart, so this year, I have purchased a 6.75 lb bag for about $12 and intend to give that a try.

    As Sarmad said, always remove any visible rot immediately and let the wound dry.

    Good LUCK!

  • macthayer
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    OK, so I'm going to un-pot them again. I think leaving them sitting in water was a mistake, although I must say I wasn't seeing any more rot. I had already removed anything that looked like rot, like the black, wet outer leaf on the bulbs. The bottom of the bulb actually looked quite clean. I went to my local greenhouse -- it's BIG -- it's in Madison, and the only fungicides they carried were copper based, so that's what I got. I've been looking up thiophanate menthyl on line, and it's just not readily available. I will look for "Scott's lawn Fungus Control and see what I can do with that. I also think I should use a much shorter pot -- as big around but not as deep. It seems the deeper ones want to hold on to their water too long. I do now have a freely draining medium, so when I pour water in the top, it practically pours out the bottom too. But I think starting over and letting the bulbs dry out a few days before potting up and then using the soil drench is my best bet. What do you think of this plan? MacThayer

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Quite a few of the plant chemicals that are available in one area of the country aren't available in other parts of the country, or they're sold under different names... as long as what you choose is safe for ornamental plants or houseplants, you should be ok. I prefer Captan by Bonide.

    When potting a bulb, you want to choose a pot that is about an inch or two bigger around than the bulb, leaving an inch or two between the pot side and bulb. Depth is fairly standard by pot size... a 6 inch pot is about 6 inches deep, although there are clay pots that are deeper or shallower... I usually buy the standard 6 inch pot that is about 6 inches deep, or 8 inch pot that is 8 inches deep, etc... I try not to get pots that are too short or the bulb will need re-potting sooner. I like to give the bulb a bit of root space to fill.

    I would allow the bulb to dry for a day or two... then dust it with an anti-fungal powder. It would also help if you brushed a bit of rooting hormone powder on the bottom of the bulb, the basal plate area. Pot it up and water it slightly to settle the medium. Then, don't water it again until it's dry. Give it some decent light, but not direct outdoor sun and wind, and it should begin to grow new leaves for you within a relatively short amount of time.

    That's how I would handle the bulb...

  • haxuan
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Maybe someone has mentioned it already but I want to ask: does your pot have a drainage hole? I couldn't see why the water stayed so long in the pot when you had that much perlite!

    My mix is heavier and we have a lot of rain lately, but the water drains quickly too and my hippis look very happy.

    Please make sure there's a hole at the bottom of the pot, the bigger the better.

    Xuan

  • macthayer
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Hi Xuan. Thanks for posting. Yes, you can be sure there was a hole in the bottom of each pot, and they were unobstructed by any material. I actually used one of those plastic pot bottoms which holds a circle of plastic about 1/4 inch off the bottom of the pot, and it's perforated with multiple holes, so I would have as many holes in the bottom as possible. As I said in the beginning, I was mystified by the root rot because I had used a light soil and dumped so much perlite into it, but that just goes to show you, perlite doesn't always work as we wish it to. It was mixed evenly throughout the soil so if you base the watering argument on that (e.g. that you shouldn't put a different type of soil, or rock, or anything else at the bottom of the pot) it should have drained well. But it didn't. I am guessing the soil mix was too wet when I put it in the pot. That's the only answer I can think of at the moment. MacThayer

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    My guess is that the medium you were using before was not conducive to fast drainage and drying out at a normal rate, i.e. the particles of soil were of very uneven sizes which changes the perched water table... plus, the plastic circle served no purpose other than to further obstruct the drainage.

    As we've learned in reading about Soil Water Retention and Perched Water Tables and all that, there is no need to use anything other than a small piece of screen or something to hold the soil inside the pot, and one drainage hole is just as good as many... it doesn't matter, in other words. As long as there is a drainage hole, and you're using a decent medium wherein the particles are all of a relative size that's conductive to draining, there will be drainage!

    If you think there's not fast enough drainage, add a wick to the soil, coming out the bottom of the pot... the wick will help move the water through the drainage hole and out, either into the soil below where the pot sits on the ground, or it drips away as the pot is suspended above the ground.

    If you're confused at all, re-read the posts on Soils, and those about Perched Water Tables and Water Retention over at the Container Gardening Forum. Loads of sensible information on growing anything in containers with excellent results!

  • mariava7
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Clay pots would save you a lot of trouble and money.

  • macthayer
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Hi Jokik. Yes, I think those little "drainage circles", which were touted as being able to improve drainage, actually did nothing for the drainage. I am not using them in the pots now. I have read the post on the container forum -- the one Al wrote on how water drains through the soil -- and I learned a lot there. I know I have to keep my soil consistent throughout, and check that it is draining freely BEFORE I plant the bulbs. Right now they are out of the pots and drying out for a couple of days. I'd had them sitting in water, but I see this wasn't very good either. Anyway, that will give the potting soil a chance to dry out (I'm going to take it out of the pots and really dry it out) so when I re-wet it, I can use an anti-fungal soil drench. Say, when you say "wick", is there any special type of material you use for that, or could you use, for example, a torn piece of cotton sheeting?

    Maria -- thanks for posting. I have been using unglazed clay pots all along for these bulbs, hoping they would aid in keeping the soil in the bottom of the pot from staying too moist.

    Thanks everyone for all of your suggestions! I am still trying! Will keep you posted on my progress!

    MacThayer

  • java_j
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I found this information on the Container Garden Forum.
    http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg031557203792.html

    The entire thread is rather long. Here are some excerpts:
    > If you were watering with a wick and fighting gravity, the material would need to be absorbent enough to "pull" water the distance between the source of water and the bottom of the pot. Since in this case, we're removing water from the pot, gravity is our friend and we can use almost anything absorbant that is made from something the little bugs (microbes) won't eat up too soon. The mop strands Lydia mentioned above (from synthetic mop heads) work great. I have even used braided nylon as a wick material (ties from citrus fruit bags). The material itself holds no water at all, but the capillary action allows it to drain pots nicely.

    And this excerpt:
    > The wick only needs to go into the pot far enough to keep it from falling out.

    The water needs to drain away from the pot. It can be elevated or set on the ground, where it will be absorbed. If a puddle forms around the bottom of the pot, the wick will be less effective.

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Another thing to consider is air circulation... if you're pots are indoors, a ceiling fan moving slowly or a window opened a bit will help keep the air moving around... in conjunction with everything else, this will help with moisture retention problems and transpiration.

    I wouldn't point a fan directly at any plants, but there needs to be a certain amount of air movement for healthy plants. I have two ceiling fans that normally run on the lowest setting, and in nicer weather, I open the windows to let in fresh air and keep it moving.

    All of these things put together... good soil, proper watering, clay pots, wicking, air movement, decent light... all of these things together, plus keeping an eye on things in general, will help in allowing your bulbs to grow the way they should.

    Since I've changed my wicked ways, my bulbs are all growing well... I presently have none rotting, none sick, none that require surgery... all of them have green leaves, and many of the bulbs are larger than they were just a few short months ago. I check them all for moisture every couple of days, using my finger method... which I trust. I water the ones requiring it and make a mental note of the ones that feel close to needing water... those I'll check again in another day.

    I still have several that need re-potting, but all in all, I'm very satisfied with how everything is growing! Many of my bulbs have even grown babies!

    By the latter part of winter, most of my plants, be they bulbs or not, are all suffering from lack of proper light and not enough fresh air... the coming of spring and the warmer weather, plus the longer days and stronger sunlight all play a part in reviving them. Even my sanseveria is growing a new leaf!

  • haxuan
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    MacThayer, I'm sure your bulbs will survive with all the care you have put into them. Pls keep us updated.
    Jodi, you do like spring, don't you? [whispering...Spring's my name translated into English!]

    Xuan

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Xuan... when I picture your name, I picture a beautiful swan gliding effortlessly across a pond in springtime, the banks colored with early blossoms from young trees in lavenders and blush pinks! The translation is quite lovely! My name is too new to have a translation... I've never seen it listed in any book that gives name meanings from long ago. It's actually a combination of my Mom and Dad's names, Joe and Dorothy... and when they named me, they had actually chosen Jennifer... then changed it at the last minute to Jodi. I'm not sure where they got the spelling... the normal way would be either Jody or Jodie... but I'm pretty different, so it fits! LOL!

    Spring is beyond wonderful for me! As soon as winter sets in, so does depression. Every day that isn't sunny is a blah sort of day... I need the sunshine to feel alive, and the higher in the sky it is, the better I feel! I don't know what they call the syndrome, but lack of sun and cold weather don't agree with me very well, at all!

    Spring is a time of rebirth, and I absolutely love watching the earth come alive again! I love the scent of spring air, watching the buds and leaves grow everywhere... seeing the first tiny blooms begin to open, and watching the birds and other animals get ready to bring new babies into the world... it's a magical time for me, and it always has been... even as a child! I'm enthralled by the changing palate of color and growth that occurs in spring! I feel reborn every spring!

    Notice the time stamps on my postings... in spring, they're very early! I love getting up early and enjoying the sunrise with a good cup of coffee! I can hear the birds singing, and I feel the sun coming in the window, warming everything... spring is MY time!

    I think that with what we've all learned recently regarding soil and water and how it works within the confines of a container, we'll have a much easier time growing our bulbs! I think we will be rewarded with healthy growth, both above and below soil level, and I think next bloom season will be so much better!

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