Saturday, December 6, 2008


Amaryllis (Hippeastrum species) are popular for their 6 to 10 inch trumpet shaped flowers that are born on 1 to 2 foot stalks (scapes). Although red and scarlet are the most popular colors, the flowers may be pink, white, salmon, apricot, rose, bicolor or picotee (petals with a different edge color) and in both single and double forms. They are prized for the color they add to the indoor landscapes during winter, and are often given and received as gifts.

When growing amaryllis from bulbs, careful selection of the bulbs is important because the plant’s performance is influenced by both the size and condition of the bulb. It is best to select the largest bulbs available as they will produce more stalks and blooms the first year. The bulbs should be firm and dry with no signs of mold, decay or injury. Next, select a container that is deep enough to allow adequate room for good root development and has provisions for drainage. The diameter of the pot should be about one inch larger than that of the bulb. Although this may seem small, amaryllis bulbs prefer a smaller container. Select a potting medium that has a high organic matter, but drains well. The bulb should be positioned so that at least one-third, preferably one-half, of the bulb is above the surface of the potting medium. Firm the potting medium around the bulb, water it thoroughly and place the container in a warm, sunny spot. Do not fertilize the bulb until it begins to grow. After growth appears, it is essential to fertilize the plants regularly with a fertilizer that has high phosphorus content. Move the plant out of direct sunlight when the flower buds have begun to show color.

The secret to successfully growing amaryllis is to keep the plants actively growing after they have finished blooming. After the flowers have faded, cut them off to prevent seed formation. Do not remove the flower stalk until it has turned yellow; since it will help manufacture food that will be stored in the bulb. If the bulb does not produce a flowering stalk the next blooming period, it has not stored enough nutrients during the post-blooming period. It is important that amaryllis receive plenty of bright sunlight after they have finished blooming so place it in the brightest possible location indoors. Water the plant from the top of the container thoroughly whenever the top 2 inches of the soil is dry to the touch. Empty any excess water that drains from the pot as wet soil will promote root and bulb rot.

When all danger of frost is past, acclimate the plant to the outdoors by first placing it in indirect light. Gradually move it to a bright spot in your garden where it will receive full sun for at least 6 hours daily. Sink the pot into the soil and fertilize as you would any other perennial. Amaryllis plants should be brought indoors before the first frost in the fall. Amaryllis do not require a resting period, however, blooming time can be controlled by allowing the bulb to go through a resting period. After bringing the potted plants indoors, store them in a dark place like a basement or cool closet (above freezing) and do not water. Do not remove the foliage until it has become dry and shriveled. The bulbs can be forced into bloom again after resting for 8 to 12 weeks. Inspect the bulbs periodically and bring them into light if new growth appears. If no new growth appears, they can be forced to bloom by bringing them into bright light and watering the soil thoroughly. Usually one or more flower stalks appear first, but occasionally they are preceded by leaves. Flowers usually develop in about 4-6 weeks from dormant bulbs, so they can be timed to flower for the holidays.

Amaryllis require some care and attention throughout the year, but those beautiful trumpet
shaped flowers are a great reward in the long months of winter.