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There are few things lovelier than Amaryllis in full bloom. Here’s what to do to make sure yours knocks your socks off. Buy the largest size bulb for the variety. Larger bulbs mean bigger — and more — flowers. Keep in mind that miniature and double-flowered varieties usually have smaller sized bulbs. Make sure your Amaryllis bulb has the same firmness and feel of a good onion.
Pot the bulb with one to one and a half inches of soil surrounding and with the top third of the bulb exposed. Water thoroughly, then let dry almost completely before watering again. Amaryllis stems will lean strongly towards the light, so place the potted bulb in a sunny window and give the pot a quarter turn every few days to keep the stem straight.
Plan on your Amaryllis taking from five to eight weeks to bloom, although you can control, to some extent, how fast your Amaryllis will bloom with temperature. If your bulb is not moving fast enough, try watering with lukewarm (not hot) water and placing it in a warm room. If your Amaryllis bulb is moving too fast, then place in cooler room temperatures. These measures can add or subtract a week or so to the total blooming time.
With proper care, your Amaryllis will delight both you and your friends this winter. To bloom this beautiful giant from year to year, after your Amaryllis finishes blooming, remove the spent flower stalks but allow any leaves that may have begun to sprout to remain. Keep your Amaryllis watered in a sunny window, and start the application of a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer according to the directions on the package.
When warm weather arrives, usually May 1 here in hardiness zone 7, you can move the pot outside for the summer, remembering to keep the plant watered and fed. If you know you’re going to forget to feed it once it’s outdoors, use a slow-release fertilizer. Just before the first frost, usually at the mid to end of October here, bring your plant inside, cut the leaves all the way back, leaving a one-inch stubble and allow the pot to go dry to the bottom.
Once the pot is bone dry, store the bulb in the container in a cool, dark, dry place for 8 to 10 weeks. An attic, basement, or attached garage is okay as long as they don’t get below freezing. Since some varieties will flower more quickly than others, check on the bulb after eight weeks. If the tip of a significant new flower shoot is beginning to show, then move the Amaryllis bulb out to a warm sunny window. Otherwise, leave it to rest for another two weeks. The standard blooming time for Amaryllis (after the first year) is somewhere between February and May.
To bloom your bulb by Christmas, you need to bring the Amaryllis bulb into dormancy by the end of August. Finding a cold, dark, and dry place can be difficult because attics, basements, and attached garages are still hot from the summer heat. A good refrigerator is your best bet.
Happy Holidays From the Great Big Greenhouse!