They are out on the shelf and ready for us to purchase to enjoy this holiday season. You may have even saved yours from last year and now you are waiting patiently to see if they will flower for you this year. What are we talking about? Amaryllis plants. If you are like me, you may have saved your Amaryllis plants and placed them outside during the summer months. You brought them inside and now they sit waiting, sitting for you in your basement. Native to Peru and South Africa, the genus Amaryllis comes from the Greek word amarysso which means “to sparkle.” Bulbs were brought to Europe in the 1700s and have been known to bloom for up to 75 years. Amaryllis are sometimes confused with the belladonna lily, which is known to be poisonous if eaten in large quantities.
Today, most amaryllis are hybrids but are still classified in the genus Hippeastrum. Amaryllis flowers range from 4 to 10 inches in size and can be either single or double in form. While the most popular colors are red and white, flowers may also be pink, salmon, apricot, rose or deep burgundy. Some varieties are bicolor such as purple and green, or picotee (having petals with a different edge color).
There are a few rules to live by if you are purchasing Amaryllis bulbs for the first time or for the 10th time. The first rule of thumb is that the bigger the bulb the more blossoms you will have. Second, it is not uncommon to see leaves or buds showing from the bulb when you purchase it. If the plant decided to start growing before purchase and then you take it home, it will be just fine. Third, Amaryllis grow best in narrow containers. The container should not be filled more than half the way with sterile potting soil. Fourth, each time you water the bulb (when the top 2″ of the soil is dry) use fertilizer but cut the amount of fertilizer you use in half. Use a fertilizer with a high phosphorus content to encourage blooming. Once you see blooms or leaves, move the bulb out of direct sunlight. Note here that many times you will start with a stalk coming out of the bulb with the flower buds, then leaves come after that. There are times when this is reversed.
The next step is the biggest secret of Amaryllis bulbs to keep them blooming year after year. Once the plant has quit blooming, cut the flowers off but leave the stalk and leaves. This helps to promote photosynthesis to the bulb which gives the bulb energy to store for the next time. If the next year your Amaryllis does not bloom, it is quite possible that it did not store enough energy for it to bloom from the year past. Amaryllis do not have to go through a dormant time to blossom again. If you are lucky, once you move them outside for the summer months, they could possibly bloom outside during that time. If you want to control their bloom time you can bring them inside for the winter and once they have dried back, let them sit for about 8 to 12 weeks. After this period, bring them to a sunny window and proceed with watering them and fertilizing them as mentioned above in order for the plant to get the message that it is time to bloom again. They only need to be repotted every three to four years. With a little luck, you can grow your own beautiful Amaryllis display during the holidays and throughout the winter months.
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