Amaryllis are popular plants, both as gifts and as decorations during the holidays. They are a great way to add a splash of color indoors. They produce large (six-to-ten-inch) trumpet-shaped flowers on long stalks (1 ½ to 2 feet long). Amaryllis come in a variety of flower colors, ranging from red, salmon, pink, purple, and white to bicolor, and are often striped or mottled.
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 an unpotted amaryllis bulb, there are a few things you need to do to get it growing and off to a good start.
Plant the bulb in a pot that is about two inches larger in diameter than the bulb. Make sure the pot has drainage holes. Select a soil-less (well-draining) potting mix and plant the bulb so that the top one-third of the bulb is sticking out of the potting mixture. Water the pot well and place it in a dark, warm area.
Once new growth appears, move the amaryllis into a sunny location. Add water to the pot until it begins to drain out the bottom and 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. Moving the plant will help retain the blossoms for a longer period of time.
While people often treat them as annuals, you can get amaryllis to re-bloom next year. Once the flowers begin to fade, cut them off to prevent seed formation (wait to remove the flower stalk until it yellows). Do not remove any of the leaves; this will allow the plant to create 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.
Once there is no longer a risk of frost, amaryllis can be taken outdoors. Place them 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, store the pots in a dark, cool place (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 it is in this resting period, periodically inspect the bulb, and if it begins to grow, place it in a sunny window. If it doesn’t start to grow on its 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, your amaryllis bulb can produce a beautiful holiday plant for years to come.
Good Growing Tip of the Week: The plants that we refer to as amaryllis aren’t true amaryllis. Rather, they are plants from the genus Hippeastrum, which are native to Central and South America. True Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp.) are native to Africa.