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This is the time of year to get my all-time favorite flowers–Amaryllis. Well, actually, what we call ‘amaryllis’ are really ‘hippeastrum’–members of the amaryllis family. The plants that are technically ‘amaryllis’ are the Amaryllis Belladonna and relatives, however, hippeastrum has been called ‘amaryllis’ for so long, that we’ll never be able to get people to call them anything else. So I’ll call them amaryllis, too.
By the way, the word Amaryllis, in Greek, means sparkle.
In every store these days, you can find amaryllis in little cardboard boxes. They’ll be priced in the vicinity of 12 bucks, give or take a dollar. If you need a grab-and-go quick gift, they’re okay. But if you are growing something for yourself or family or friends, look for just the bulb and plant it yourself.
With amaryllis, the bigger the bulb for the variety, the more flowers you get—hands down. Amaryllis in gift boxes are as big around as a small apple. In a garden center, you’ll find individual bulbs of the as big as a grapefruit—or bigger. The bulb in the box will give you one to two flower stems with two to four flowers on a stem. The bigger bulb can give you up to three stems with four to six flowers each.
Amaryllis are easy to grow and bloom—and re-bloom. When you buy the bulb, plant it in a pot about one to one and a half inches bigger around, leaving the top third of the bulb above the soil level. Water lightly, but keep on the dry side until growth appears. It may take a few weeks before the tip of a bloom spike shows. Keep in a sunny window. The flower stalks are like “light meters” and will grow pointing to the light, so turn the pot a quarter turn every time you water. More sun will keep the stalk shorter and sturdier.
After the bulb blooms, it will begin to grow leaves. When you cut the spent flowers off, be sure not to disturb the foliage. This would be the time to begin feeding your amaryllis. I usually use my favorite Neptune’s Harvest fish/seaweed blend, but any good houseplant food is fine.
I keep them in a sunny window until the end of April and then move them outside for the summer. It’s important to keep them fed over the summer. I tend to forget to feed them once they are outside, so I use a slow-release fertilizer when I move them out the first week in May and that’ll keep them fed through August. If you can’t get them outside for the summer, keep them inside in s sunny window.
Mid-October, I bring my amaryllis back inside and let them dry out. I cut the leaves off, leaving a one-inch stubble and store the dry bulb in the pot in the back of a closet, an attic, basement or garage—any place cool, dark and dry.
At the end of eight weeks, I check on them and if I see any fat stiff little bloom shoots showing I bring them out, otherwise I leave them another two weeks. Bring them out, begin watering and they’ll bloom again.
The secret is feeding over the summer and giving them an eight to ten-week dormancy. If you do that, they’ll bloom reliably year after year.
I time my amaryllis to bloom AFTER Christmas. At Christmas, I have a Christmas tree to keep five cats out of, poinsettias and holiday cactus blooming, and company coming. I’m running all over the place! If my amaryllis bloomed then, I’d barely have enough time to notice as I’m running by. By timing it to bloom January/February, I have something gorgeous to enjoy when I’m so tired of gray winter days I could scream. If you absolutely must bloom it at the holidays, then bring in it and begin its dry dormant period around the first of September.
Come in and let me show you some of my favorite amaryllis varieties. We have a terrific selection right now.