Add Some Sparkle to Your Christmas Season -Plant An Amaryllis!

With Christmas 2021 fast approaching it’s time to plant an Amaryllis for a gorgeous seasonal display that can last for weeks.  If you are new to gardening, an amaryllis in bloom is an awesome and beautiful sight to behold.  They make a perfect hostess gift and are so easy to grow!  

Amaryllis ( Hippeastrum)  are native to South Africa, who along with Holland are the biggest suppliers of the bulbs to the rest of the world.  They come in colors and variations of red, orange, pink, white and salmon.   

Most amaryllis varieties will bloom six to eight weeks after planting.  Bloom time will vary with different varieties; some blooming after 10 weeks.  If you want a continuous floral display through the Christmas holiday season, choose a combination of varieties and plant them a few days apart starting in early November.    For variety bloom time, check the label with the bulb or the internet.  Amaryllis also make awesome cut flowers, lasting two to three weeks in a vase with regular water changes.    

 

Amaryllis are usually sold in a gift box complete with the bulb, pot and soil;  loose in bare bulb form or potted up and in bud.  I have tried them all and do prefer using the loose bare bulb and to do the potting myself.   

An amaryllis bulb has enough food stored in the bulb to grow and bloom.  In the case of amaryllis bulbs, bigger is better as the largest bulbs may produce more than one stem.  The number of stems produced also depends on the variety.  When selecting a bulb gently squeeze it to make sure there are no soft spots (indicating rot).  Amaryllis bulbs should be firm.   

Individually pot the bulb into a 6 or 8 inch pot with drainage holes.  Choose a heavy pot to hold your bulb as amaryllis are shallow rooted and top heavy when in bloom.  You can also plant the bulb into a plastic pot and insert that into a heavier decorative pot.  If you want to create a real statement piece, plant three bulbs in a heavy 12 -14 inch diameter low ceramic bowl.   

The soil used for amaryllis potting should be a tropical plant soil mixed with an extra handful of perlite to facilitate good drainage and soil airflow.  

Prepare the bulb for planting by placing the bottom of the bulb with roots in a shallow bowl of lukewarm water for a few hours.    

Plant the bulb with the pointed end up.  Fill in with more soil around the bulb, leaving about one third of the bulb above the soil line.  Water lightly until you see about 2 inches of new stem growth.  From then on water regularly making sure you do not pour water over the bulb itself.  Never let your amaryllis sit in water as this will cause root rot.   

 

Amaryllis prefer bright, indirect light.  Some bulbs will grow leaves first; others will send up a flower stalk first and leaves later.  Make sure you turn the pot often so the stalk grows straight. Each stalk will produce one or more flowers at its tip. You may also want to provide a support for the stalk.  Red Dogwood twigs look very unique as decorative stakes.   Do not fertilize.  Remember the bulb has enough food to complete its flowering phase.   If multiple buds are on a stalk, they may not all flower at once.  When the flowers are finished, snip them off where they meet the tip of the stem.  When all the flowers have finished, cut the entire stalk back to within one to two inches of the bulb.   

The good news is you do not need to throw out your amaryllis bulb after flowering.  Some people have kept their amaryllis flowering for years.  Closer to spring begin to feed your plant every two weeks with an all- purpose houseplant fertilizer.   Water regularly.  Leaves will continue to be produced, which help create energy for next year’s bloom. You can even gradually introduce your amaryllis to a sunny spot outside once all danger of frost is past.   

Around the middle of August, gradually begin to withhold water and let the leaves die back naturally.   

Let the pot dry out completely. This gives the bulb a rest period, beginning about the beginning of September.  Place the bulb in a dry, dark and cool place for about 8 weeks.  Do not water during this time.    

In late October repot the bulb in new soil and begin to enjoy the flowering process all over again!   

  


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