by Carol Siddall, Master Gardener
One of my favorite flowers around Christmas is the showy amaryllis. Amaryllis bulbs are easy to grow indoors and they produce impressive, long-lasting flowers. You may find them in nurseries, grocery stores, big box stores, or you can order from mail order nurseries. They range in color from white to pink, salmon, orange, variegated, and the ever popular red. These bulbs are tropical in nature and are native to Peru and South Africa.
Neil Sperry, horticulturist, says you need to buy top quality bulbs. Most will come prepotted, but if it doesn’t, and no potting material is enclosed, use loose, organic potting soil. One-third of the bulb should extend out of the soil. You will need to water the soil thoroughly. If they are near a window, it may need to be turned ¼ a turn every day. Keep the soil moist, but not WET. When it finishes blooming, cut the flower stalk to within 1” of the top of the bulb. I have seen them make seeds if the stalk is not cut back. The food source needs to stay in the foliage to help form next year’s flower buds. Continue to water and feed the plant regularly with a liquid houseplant fertilizer. They will grow a number of leaves during the spring and summer. This will help the plant produce energy for the following year’s bloom. If you have set your plant outdoors after all danger of frost is gone, you will need to fertilize your plant once or twice a month through July. Bring your plant indoors in mid-September. Plants left indoors should be kept in a sunny window. In order to bloom again, the bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees for a minimum of 8 to 10 weeks.
I usually plant my bulb outside in a flower bed after all danger of frost is gone. They may not bloom the first year, but the following spring they will be a showy flower in your garden. They will die back when it freezes, but come back in the spring for several years.
Haven’t tried an amaryllis, try one this Christmas season.