The amaryllis is a one of a kind flowering bulb. Many years ago our family always had numerous amaryllis bulbs in bloom at this time of year.
They are the easiest flowering bulb to bloom. The amaryllis originated in South America’s tropical region – its botanical name is Hippeastrum.
Like tulips and daffodils, the larger the bulb the more powerful the bloom. Before buying, don’t be afraid to give the bulb a good once-over. Look for firmness, lack of soft spots and, although its roots will be shriveled, they should still be there and not broken off.
The large flowers and ease with which they can be brought to bloom make amaryllis popular and in demand worldwide. The amaryllis comes in many beautiful varieties including various shades of red, white, pink, salmon and orange. There are also many striped and multicolored varieties, usually combining shades of pink or red with white.
The base and roots of the bulb should be placed in lukewarm water for a few hours. Remember, if you cannot plant the bulbs immediately after receiving them; store them at a cool temperature between 40-50 degrees F.
Plant bulbs in nutritious potting compost, many are available pre-mixed. Plant the bulb up to its neck in the potting compost, being careful not to damage the roots. Press the soil down firmly to set the bulb securely in place after planting.
Plant the bulb, or place the potted bulb in a warm place with direct light since heat is necessary for the development of the stems. The ideal temperature is 68 to 70 degrees F. Water sparingly until the stem appears, then, as the bud and leaves appear, gradually water more. At this point, the stem will grow rapidly and flowers will develop after it has reached full growth. Bulbs will flower in 7-10 weeks as a general rule. In winter the flowering time will be longer than in spring.
After the amaryllis has stopped flowering, it can be made to flower again. Cut the old flowers from the stem after flowering, and when the stem starts to sag, cut it back to the top of the bulb.
Continue to water and fertilize as normal all summer, or for at least 5-6 months, allowing the leaves to fully develop and grow. When the leaves begin to yellow, which normally occurs in the early fall, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil.
Clean the bulb and place it in a cool 40-50 degree, dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for a minimum of 6 weeks. Do not store amaryllis bulbs in a refrigerator that contains apples, this will sterilize the bulbs. After 6 weeks you may remove bulbs whenever you would like to plant them. Plant bulbs 8 weeks before you would like them to bloom.
It’s a wonderful bulb to grow – “Merry Christmas!”
Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.