‘Tis the season and our thoughts are turning to gifts and decorations once again. And once again, my favorite in BOTH categories comes to mind… the lovely Amaryllis!
Want some bright, cheerful color inside for the holidays? Plant amaryllis! This big ugly bulb will burst into bloom in just a few weeks with very little effort on your part. Because it’s so spectacular in appearance and so easy to grow, the amaryllis makes a wonderful gift, too.
Amaryllis can be found in just about any garden center at this time of the year. Most popular is the deep red color but these days, there is a wide variety of colors, textures, shapes and sizes in amaryllis blossoms. Anything ranging from snow white to pink or peach or even stripes and picotee has been added to the various red varieties.
If you purchase your amaryllis bulb pre-packaged, there will be full growing instructions printed on the box or insert. If you find a bulb in a bulk bin, the instructions may be printed on a handout. Just in case you don’t have the instructions, here are the basics:
Choose a pot that is only slightly larger than the diameter of the bulb. Amaryllis likes to be somewhat crowded. Be sure you have about a half to one inch of space all around the bulb and it will be perfect. Fill the pot about halfway with good potting soil and then set the bulb on the soil surface. Fill the pot so that about half of the bulb is left exposed. Water thoroughly and then put the pot in a warm, well-lit spot and forget it for a while. Don’t water it again until you see growth. From that point on, keep the soil evenly moist.
You will most likely see a flower bud growing long before the leaves show up. That’s normal, so don’t be alarmed. This thick sturdy stem will have just one large bud at its tip, but when that bud opens, you should have a cluster of 2 to 4 huge flowers. Bigger bulbs will have more flowers.
If you plan to save your bulb for a repeat performance next year, feed it with a houseplant fertilizer according to the package directions. And when the flowers fade, cut off the stem to conserve the bulb’s strength. Do not cut the leaves. Those are essential to the bulb’s growth for next year.
When the strap-like amaryllis leaves begin to yellow and die, withhold water from the bulb until the soil dries out. Then remove your bulb, shake off any loose soil and store it in a cool dry place.
Next year, about 6 weeks before you want to see blossoms, plant your amaryllis bulb exactly the same way you did it this year. You’ll need a larger pot, though, because your bulb should have expanded from its original size.
You can repeat this process year after year for as long as you care to do it. Each year, your amaryllis bulb will grow a bit more, rewarding you with more and larger blooms each season.