Amaryllis are popular plants as both gifts as well as decorations during the holidays. They produce six- to ten-inch trumpet shaped flowers on long stalks (1 ½ to 2 feet long). There are a variety of flower colors, ranging from red, salmon, pink, purple, white to bicolor.
Many of the amaryllis plants available this time of year come pre-potted and are ready to go. You’ll occasionally find some that have already started to grow and all you need to do is give them some light and water. However, if you buy a non-potted amaryllis bulb, there are a few things you need to do to get them going.
Plant the bulb in a pot that is about two inches larger in diameter than the bulb (and make sure it has drainage holes). Chose a well-draining potting soil and plant the bulb so that the top one-third of the bulb is sticking out of the potting mixture. Water it well and place the pot in a dark, warm area until new growth appears. Then, move the amaryllis into a sunny location and water until water begins to drain out the bottom (make sure to discard the excess). You won’t need to water again until the soil feels dry to the touch. Once the flower buds begin to show color move the plant out of direct sunlight, and ideally into a cooler location. Placing the plant in a cooler location and out of direct sunlight will help retain the blossoms for a longer period of time.
Like many other bulbs, you can get an amaryllis to re-bloom next year if you let it continue growing so it can create and store enough food. Once the flowers begin to fade, cut them off to prevent seed formation (you don’t need to remove the flower stalk until it yellows). Do not remove any of the leaves, this will allow the plant can begin creating food to store so it can bloom again. Place your amaryllis in a bright indoor location and water thoroughly, but let it dry between waterings.
Keep your amaryllis in its inside ‘home’ until the danger of frost has passed. Once there is no longer a risk, take it outdoors and sink the pot into the ground. It’s best to put you amaryllis in an area that receives filtered sunlight at first, and then gradually move to an area where it will get a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day. Fertilize your plant every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer or apply a slow release fertilizer (follow the directions on the label).
In the fall, bring the amaryllis indoors before the first frost and store the pots in a dark, cool place at 50 to 55 F and stop watering. Remove the leaves after they have become yellow. The bulb will need to go through a resting period for approximately eight to twelve weeks before it can be forced to bloom again. While they are in this resting period, periodically inspect the bulbs and if they begin to grow bring them into light. If they don’t begin to grow on their own, you can force new growth by watering the soil thoroughly and placing the amaryllis back into a sunny location. When the bulb begins to show signs of growth, start the blooming cycle again. With a little work, the amaryllis bulb can produce a beautiful holiday plant for several years.