Amaryllis may be the easiest and most impressive flowers you’ll ever grow. Their huge, trumpet-shaped blossoms measure up to 8” across and they come in amazing colors, from velvety red through pink, peach, white and even pale green. Amaryllis are tropical plants that are winter hardy only in frost-free zones 9-12. In most areas, the bulbs are planted indoors, where they will bloom between November and April.
WHAT MAKES AMARYLLIS SPECIAL
When you purchase an amaryllis bulb, it already contains everything that's needed to produce a living bouquet of big, beautiful flowers. All you need to do is plant the bulb and water sparingly.
There are dozens of gorgeous amaryllis varieties, each with its own unique color and style. Growing a few different varieties is the best way to discover your favorites. And, since the bulbs are so easy to grow, amaryllis also make thoughtful gifts for anyone who enjoys the beauty of flowers.
PLANTING TIPS FOR AMARYLLIS
Amaryllis bulbs may be planted in individual pots, or several bulbs can be grouped together in a larger container. Pots should have drainage holes on the bottom so excess water can drain out and the roots won’t get waterlogged.
To plant a single bulb, select a pot that is 7 to 8” deep and 5 to 6” across. Place several inches of potting soil in the bottom of the pot -- the bulb will eventually fill this space with its roots. Position the bulb on top of the soil and gently add more soil around the sides. The top half of the bulb should be exposed and sit above the soil surface. If you wish, you can cover the soil surface with moss or decorative stones. Water well after planting and put the pot in a cool, sunny location. From then on, water sparingly, keeping the soil barely moist.
Amaryllis bulbs may also be grown without soil. Fill a vase or watertight pot with about 5” of pebbles or coarse stone. Add just enough water to cover the stones. Position the bulb on top of the stones so the water is barely touching the bottom of the bulb. Add more pebbles or stones around the bulb to help anchor it, leaving the top 1/3 of the bulb exposed. As water evaporates or is absorbed by the developing roots, add more water, keeping the level just below the base of the bulb.
It can take 4-12 weeks for an amaryllis bulb to wake up and start growing. Timing depends on where the bulb was grown, the variety and when the bulb is planted. Early-blooming amaryllis are grown in the Southern Hemisphere and if planted in late fall they will flower for the holidays. Dutch-grown amaryllis bulbs typically bloom between January and April.
When the first sprout emerges from the top of the bulb, start watering more frequently. In most cases, the stem will emerge first, and the leaves will appear a couple weeks later. Turn the pot occasionally to keep the stem growing straight.
Once the flowers begin to open, move the pot out of direct sunlight and keep the plant as cool as possible to extend the show. If you prefer to display your amaryllis flowers in a vase, wait until the buds are fully formed and then cut the stems to whatever length you like.
As the flowers fade, use scissors to snip them off. Once the entire stem has finished flowering, cut it back to just above the bulb. Most amaryllis bulbs will send up a second or even a third stem with additional flowers. All the stems may emerge at approximately the same time, or the bulb may rest for a week or two in between.
AFTERCARE FOR AMARYLLIS
When your amaryllis bulbs have finished flowering, you have two options: either discard the bulbs and purchase new ones next year, or keep the bulbs growing until they are ready to flower again next winter. If you want to save the bulb for next year, here's what to do.
Once the flowers have faded, cut off the stem(s) so they are about 1” above the top of the bulb. Continue watering as needed to keep the soil barely moist. The bulb will send out long, strappy leaves that will grow for several months and produce the energy the bulb requires to form next year’s blossoms. Fertilize monthly, using a standard liquid houseplant fertilizer.
When spring arrives and the weather has settled (several weeks after any danger of frost), put the pot outdoors in a partially shaded location. You can also plant the bulb directly in the garden. Be sure to keep the bulb partially out of the soil and avoid overwatering. Care for your amaryllis by watering and fertilizing as needed. The bigger and fatter the bulb gets, the more flowers it will produce.
When fall approaches (and before any danger of frost), dig up the bulb or bring the pot indoors. Put it in a cool, relatively dark place (garage or basement) and stop watering. This will tell the bulb that it’s time to rest and initiate flower formation. After a 6 to 12 week rest, gently remove the bulb from the pot and pull off any dry leaves. Replant the bulb in fresh potting soil and care for it as you would a newly purchased bulb.