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story.lead_photo.caption Amaryllis bulbs start growing when they decide the time has come, whether they are planted in a pot or still tucked inside a merchant's bag or box. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Q A friend gave me an amaryllis kit that came in a cardboard box. When I opened it, the plant had already begun to grow, and some of the leaves were somewhat curled. Is this normal? Can I still get it to bloom again, or should I ask the friend where she got it and take it back?

A Amaryllis bulbs have a mind of their own. When they are ready to grow, they do, whether they are potted up in soil or waiting inside the box they are shipped in. Usually, amaryllis start with their flower stalk first and then leaves. I would pot it up and gently try to get it as straight as possible. Put it in a sunny window and turn it every few days so that it will lean toward the light and, hopefully, straighten itself up. You might also want to give it some stem support once it begins to grow. Amaryllis bulbs make huge floral displays and can be a bit top-heavy in bloom. They should have a flower on them in four to six weeks after they begin growth. With minimal care, however, amaryllis bulbs will re-bloom next season. Give them a long growing season, preferably outdoors once spring arrives, then cut them back in the fall and wait for new growth. You can also buy the loose amaryllis bulbs at local nurseries so you can see what is sprouting. Nurseries often pot up the bulbs once they begin to grow.

Q My Encore azaleas were gorgeous this year both spring and fall. Now I have a lot of yellow leaves. I don't want them to die. What can I do?

A I would not worry. Evergreen azaleas (and other evergreen plants) shed old leaves each year to make way for new growth. With some light blooming azaleas and gardenias, the leaves turn yellow before they shed. As long as the yellow leaves are farther down the stem, you have nothing to be worried about.

Q I have a large, well-established camellia that I need to move. When is the best time to do so?

A Transplanting established landscape plants is best done during their dormant months, from late November through early March. If a plant is reliably winter hardy, you can move the plant at any time during that period. For plants that could suffer winter damage, I would suggest waiting to the end of the dormant period. Dig the new hole prior to digging up the camellia, and move it in late February or early March.

Q I was doing some cleanup in the garden this week and saw one of my japonica camellias with a bloom on it and several more showing color. I cut the open bloom and brought it inside before the really cold weather hit. They usually don't bloom until March and even then, I sometimes lose blooms to cold weather. What can I do now to protect them?

A Several plants seem to be confused by our weather. Unfortunately, you can't slow down their buds once they start showing color. That is when they are quite sensitive to cold. You did the right thing by bringing in the open flower and might consider cutting the buds that are showing color too. Hopefully, you have more buds that are still in their dormant stage and so will have more blooms in later winter/early spring.

Q I have turned off my sprinkler system and drained it, but now am wondering if I did the right thing. I have been told that I may still need to water this winter if it is dry. What should I do?

A Watering is definitely not as critical in the winter months as it is in the summer months, but some years it is necessary. I watered just last week, but thankfully we got some much-needed rain. Typically, the fall and winter months bring enough precipitation that we don't have to supplement, although some winters are drier than others. You did the correct thing in draining your irrigation system to make sure it doesn't freeze. If conditions get dry, water those plants that are most critical. You do not need to water lawns or all shrubs and trees, just those that are newly planted in open or drier areas, and container plants. An extra hose or sprinkler can do the job without employing the whole sprinkler system.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email jcarson@arkansasonline.com

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