How to Grow Your Own Florist-Quality Amaryllis
If you visit a high end floral shop during the winter months, it's likely you'll see lots of amaryllis. Floral designers love using these oversize blooms because they are bold, elegant and long-lasting. As amaryllis becomes an increasingly popular cut flower, breeders and commercial producers have been quick to jump on the opportunity. This has resulted in a flurry of hybridizing and an extraordinary range of exciting new flower styles and colors.
Why not hop on this trend yourself? It's easy to grow amaryllis bulbs at home and produce your own supply of fresh-cut winter flowers!
4 Reasons to Grow Amaryllis for Cut Flowers
#1 Amaryllis flowers last just as long (or even longer) in a vase as they do when still attached to the bulb.
#2 Cutting stems before they bloom helps the bulb conserve energy for future flowers.
#3 Amaryllis flowers are top-heavy and when they're in bloom, it can be hard to keep the pot upright.
#4 Not everyone has a good place to display a bouquet of flowers that's more than 2 feet tall!
Types of Amaryllis for Cutting
All amaryllis look great in a vase, so choose the colors and styles that appeal to you. Some varieties naturally have shorter (or longer) stems, bigger (or smaller) flowers and earlier (or later) bloom times. The more bulbs you plant, the more options you'll have for arrangements. Just three bulbs will yield 6 to 9 stems and between 24 and 40 blossoms!
Most amaryllis bulbs are grown in Holland or Israel. In recent years, South Africa and South America have also begun producing bulbs for export. With amaryllis now coming from two hemispheres, growers are able to deliver a continuous supply of cut flowers, almost year-round.
If you want amaryllis blooming in December, you need to plant bulbs from the Southern Hemisphere. They arrive eager to grow, and if started in October or early November, they should flower for the holidays.
Bulbs from the Northern Hemisphere typically flower between January and March. The earlier you plant them, the sooner they'll bloom. To get a succession of flowers, plant a number of different varieties and stagger the planting times. Learn more here: When Will My Amaryllis Bloom?
When and How to Cut the Stems
For the longest vase life, cut the stems before the flowers open. Wait until the first buds have puffed out and are soft (as shown).
Use a sharp knife to cut each stem just an inch or so above the bulb. Amaryllis stems are hollow, so take care to support the stem as you're making the cut. Put the flowers in a tall, clean vase of room temperature water and then move the vase to a cool place for a few hours or overnight. Once the flowers have rested, you can recut the stems to whatever length suits your vase or arrangement.
How to Display Amaryllis as Cut Flowers
Amaryllis look fabulous no matter how you display them -- combined with other flowers or on their own.
If you plan to leave the stems relatively long, choose a vase with a heavy bottom. Clear vases work well for amaryllis, because they accentuate the long line of the stem. In fact, a clear glass vase works nicely even when you cut the stem very short.
Always start with a squeaky-clean vase. Add floral food to the water, following proper dilution rates. (For an alternative to floral food, add 1 tsp sugar, 2 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp bleach to a quart of lukewarm water.)
Change the water in the vase twice a week. Always take a few extra moments to wash the vase and remove bacteria that can clog the stems. Then add water and fresh preservative. Over time, the bottom of an amaryllis stem will tend to split and curl. Re-cutting it each time you change the water will maximize vase life.