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BONNIE’S GARDEN – Amaryllis, The Beautiful Flower That Won a Heart

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

In Greek mythology, there was a shy maiden named Amaryllis who fell in love with a handsome shepherd. He was an avid gardener and vowed to only love a woman who could bring him the most beautiful flower in the world. Amaryllis would go by his house every night and pierce her heart with a golden arrow. The drops of blood left a beautiful flower behind. The beauty of the flower and her diligence and sacrifice won his heart.

The Flower That Won a Shepherd’s Heart

So here are some interesting facts about this flower that won a shepherd’s heart:

Amaryllis are tender perennials, living outdoors reliably in winter hardiness zones 9 and 10.

Here? Well, I’ve known people who have had them make it over the winter outside—in a well-protected area with a heavy winter mulch. Yes, I’ve done it—next to a brick foundation on the south side of the house with about 8 or 10 inches of pine needles on top. They made it several years, but a few years ago we had a few nights dip close to zero. That pretty much took care of that.

We are Family…

The Amaryllis family—the Amaryllidaceae—are a wide and varied group including the wild Amaryllis (Amaryllis Belladonna), our Christmas amaryllis (reclassified as Hippeastrum), as well as Narcissus (yes, daffodils!), tiny little snowdrops, agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile), alliums (onions, garlic, and ornamental onions), clivia, crinum (Cape Lilies) among others.

Most of these are bulbs, needing a dormant period at some time during the year. For bulbs like daffodils and snowdrops, they get their dormancy during summer. For agapanthus and clivia, which those of us in temperate zones grow in containers, they get a semi-dormancy when we bring them inside for the winter when we stop fertilizing and run them almost completely dry between waterings.

‘Tis the Season…

Hippeastrum—Christmas amaryllis–is here now! So here’s how to grow these dramatically beautiful giants.

Pot your bulb with the top third of the bulb exposed in a pot about one to two inches bigger around than the bulb. Water your bulb when you are ready for it to start growing. It will take anywhere from six to about ten weeks to bloom, depending on the variety of amaryllis and the environment—bulbs in a cooler room will take longer.

Keeping a Giant…

To keep amaryllis from year to year is incredibly easy—I should know. I have 26 and re-bloom them every year!

So here’s how I do it. As soon as my amaryllis finish blooming, I cut the bloom stalk all the way back. If the amaryllis has not yet begun to grow leaves, it will do so soon. At this point, I add a good slow-release fertilizer, like Osmocote—although you could use any all-purpose plant food—and keep the plant in a sunny spot.

In the first week of May, I move them outside for the summer (remember to let them get accustomed to the direct outdoor sun gradually so as to avoid sunburn.) Thereafter, I remember to add another dose of Osmocote when it’s time (or stay on top of fertilizing) and I let them grow all summer long.

In the fall, I bring them in, allow them to go COMPLETELY dry and cut the leaves off, and then place those bulbs in pots and place the pots in an attic, basement, closet, or attached garage for 10 weeks. After their ten-week sleep, I repot any that need it, begin watering, and wait to enjoy the show.

To Bloom or Not to Bloom Over the Holidays

If you absolutely have to have them blooming during the holidays, put them into dormancy no later than the middle of August.

I absolutely DON’T want mine blooming during Christmas. Between trying to keep four cats from destroying the Christmas tree, all the running around, and poinsettias all over the place, I barely have enough time to notice them.

I put mine to sleep mid-October—and bring them out on the first of January. That way, most of them bloom somewhere between late January or early February. Because I’m so not a winter fan, I appreciate their dramatic beauty so much more then.

Another Tip

When you pick out your amaryllis bulb, get the largest size for the variety. You can get amaryllis already potted in boxes for a quick gift, but the individual bulbs give you a better selection. There are so many more choices than just big red ones. There are beautiful double amaryllis and fun miniatures and colors from whites, reds, pinks, stripes, greens (yes), even burgundy!

Come in today and pick out one (or two or three) that is sure to be a new favorite.

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