Botanically named Hippeastrum, amaryllis are native to the Western Cape region of South Africa. Today, most amaryllis bulbs are imported from Holland where hybridizers continue to create new varieties so gardeners have a wide selection. They can be purchased at your local garden center, from catalogs or online.
When purchasing bulbs, be sure they are firm and dry without sign of injury. Buy the largest bulbs you can find because size maters when it comes to amaryllis bulbs. The larger the bulb, the more stems and flowers it will produce.
Store bulbs in a cool, dark spot until you are ready to plant them. To choose the flowering time of amaryllis, count back six to eight weeks from the desired blooming time. Or plant a couple bulbs every two to three weeks for nonstop blooms all winter long.
Amaryllis flowers are heavy so choose a heavy container or add rocks to a lightweight pot. The container should be deep enough for strong roots to develop and just an inch or two wider than the bulb. Drainage holes are essential. Amaryllis prefer to be snug in their pots.
Fill containers with good quality potting mix. Plant bulbs so their shoulders are barely showing above the soil. Press the soil firmly around bulbs and water them thoroughly. Place pots in a sunny spot and do not water again until growth begins.
As stems emerge, water regularly. It won’t take long for them to reach 1 to 2 feet tall and the magnificent flowers to open. To help blooms last as long as possible, move the pot out of direct sunlight.
Care after blooming
Proper care after blooms fade results in a repeat performance next year. Deadhead flowers as they decline, but wait to remove stems until they yellow. When all the flowers have been removed, move the pot back to a sunny location.
In spring, after all danger of frost has passed, plant your amaryllis outside, pot and all. Introduce it to its new environment slowly. Acclimate it in a shady spot before moving it to a brighter location. Continue to water and fertilize with a balanced houseplant fertilizer as leaves grow all summer.
Before the first frost in fall, bring the amaryllis back inside and put it in a sunny window. Let the soil dry completely. Cut back the foliage after it browns. Move it to a cool, dark place where it can rest for 8 to 12 weeks.
Then begin the process again. Because amaryllis prefer to be rootbound, they won’t require repotting every year. When they do, repot them now.
Pick up some amaryllis for yourself and a few more to give as holiday gifts for gardening friends.
Written By: Diana Stoll
The Planter’s Palette
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter’s Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, Ext. 2, or visit planterspalette.com.