Amaryllis is another traditional holiday flower. The showy, bright red, white, pink, orange, speckled or striped flowers add pizzazz to any area they grace. Growing an amaryllis can be a fun project for the whole family.
The amaryllis is a true bulb that originated in tropical areas of South America. It is considered a tender bulb in Lee County and should be mulched heavily or pulled up during the winter if planted outdoors. Most of the bulbs produced for indoor forcing are grown in the Netherlands, South Africa or Israel.
Many stores sell amaryllis kits around this time of year. Individual bulbs may also be purchased – look for a large, firm bulb without any obvious damage. Be sure the container you choose to plant your bulb in has drainage holes. Amaryllis do not like to be grown in soggy soil!
Place potting soil in the bottom of a container that is one to two inches larger than the base of the bulb. Amaryllis bulbs thrive when they become slightly root bound. Place the bulb pointed end up, so that the top one-third of the bulb is above the soil. Keeping the top of the bulb above the soil will prevent disease formation.
Water right after planting and, thereafter, water about once a week or when the soil is dry. Do not overwater and try to avoid watering directly over the bulb tip.
Place your amaryllis in a bright window, ideally with a southern exposure. Temperatures around 70 to 75 degrees are important for root, leaf and floral stalk growth. Amaryllis will take 3-6 weeks to bloom after growth initiates. After your bulb begins to flower, move it to a cooler, less sunny area to prolong flower life.
Be careful not to fertilize before you see leaf growth. Then fertilize with a complete fertilizer about twice a month.
After your amaryllis is done blooming, allow the foliage to remain if you are planning to keep the bulb. There are two options: you could plant the bulb outside or store it for use the next year.
In our area, the bulbs are marginally hardy meaning they may not last through a severe winter. Outside, place in a sunny or partly shady location with well-draining soil. Be sure to keep the top one-third of the bulb above the soil. Wait to transplant your bulb until after the last frost, about mid-April. The bulb will return to its natural blooming cycle, so it will bloom in the spring instead of the winter.
If you decide to keep your bulb for forcing indoors next year, keep the plant actively growing. Remove the flowers after they fade and after all flowers have faded, carefully remove the flower stalk. Before the bulb will flower again, it needs to experience a cool (around 55 F), dry period of about 8 – 10 weeks. The bulb does not need to go dormant. After the bulb has experienced this change, return to regular growing conditions.
Growing an amaryllis can be a fun experience for the whole family. These brightly flowered bulbs add a splash of color to the holiday season. For more information on amaryllis, reference HIL 8529: Home Forcing of Potted Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) or contact our Center at 919-775-5624.
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