Look, Ma, No Water

Amaryllis flowers nearing their mid-winter apex

Every year at Christmas, my sister gives me an amaryllis bulb. You just plant the bulb in the provided soil inside a plastic container and water every day until, about a month later, the phallic stem rises and unveils up to four gorgeous, trumpet-like red flowers.

This year, things were a little different. There were three bulbs fixed in a linear box, but instead of being planted in soil, they were cloaked in a shell of hard wax. Most importantly, you were instructed to not water the bulbs at all (indeed you couldn’t water them if you wanted to), for the full six-plus weeks of the flowering process. Apparently, there was sufficient moisture in the bulb to not require any additional water.

Waterless amaryllis bulbs wrapped in hard wax

I was skeptical. But sure enough, the waterless amaryllis did their thing for nearly two months until the flowers finally withered, as per usual.

After seven weeks of no water

It got me thinking. Are amaryllis bulbs uniquely suited to not needing water? Or are there other plants—in particular edible ones—that require little or no water?

I’ve seen systems that more efficiently water plants, such as when the roots suck up water from a container below. But nothing approaching waterless.

It’s not an inconsequential thought in a rapidly warming world with sustained periods of drought.


6 thoughts on “Look, Ma, No Water

  1. Patricio

    Indeed, amazing plant. Ours generally flower in December.
    This year, ours flowered in January, and the same plant again flowered in February.


  2. karen kunelius

    Bill you can save the bulbs year to year and eventually end up with a forest of bulbs. Mine are cooking now (in soil) kk




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