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Amaryllis flowers brighten winter

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(Read caption) Big, bold blooms are characteristic of amaryllis, a colorful indoor plant.

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This is the time of year that if you live in a cold climate, you're longing for some color (besides brown and white).

Sure, you can bring home some new houseplants or buy some potted tulips at the supermarket. But if you want to make a bold splash, try an amaryllis. This tropical Americas native grows from a huge bulb (many are about the size of a mango) and has a stalk and flower to match.

Colors range from many shades of red, pink, and orange to white -- and combinations of those (red and white is a personal favorite).

If you're convinced, what now?

The easiest way to get started with amaryllis is to buy an already potted, already growing bulb. You'll find them at home stores, garden centers, florists, nurseries, and the floral departments of grocery stores.

If possible, choose one that has big flower buds on it that have not yet opened. (If the flowers are already open, you won't get to enjoy them for as long as if you buy the plant with buds.)

Make sure the plant is wrapped against the cold if you're taking it home when outdoor temperatures are in the 30s F. You don't want it to get chilled.

Once it's at your house, place it in a warm spot. (70 degrees F. and above is ideal, but it will be OK down to 60 F.) It also needs bright light, including a bit of sun, so don't stick the plant in a dark corner or in the middle of the coffee table.

You also don't want to let the soil dry out. Most amaryllis bulbs are potted in peat moss and once it has become dry, it's very difficult to wet again all the way through.So feel the soil's surface each day, and as it starts to dry slightly, water again. (Warm water is best.) But don't let the bottom of the pot stand in water.

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