COLUMN: Growing amaryllis is easy
Amaryllis is one of the easiest plants to grow: if you buy this bulb, it will bloom and look magnificent.
COLUMN: Growing amaryllis is easy
Amaryllis is one of the easiest plants to grow: if you buy this bulb, it will bloom and look magnificent. This bulb is so easy to grow that you’ll often see them growing in a box before it has even been planted.
Botanists believe the bulbs were brought to Europe in the early 16th century and later brought to the United States. Native to Peru and South Africa, the genus Amaryllis comes from the Greek word amarysso which means “to sparkle,” perfect words to describe this plant.
Amaryllis makes a great holiday gift. This plant has showy blooms; they are large and range in colors from white to shades of pink, salmon, red and orange. It’s the easiest bulb to bring into bloom because it doesn’t need a chilling period like other bulbs such as daffodils or tulips.
When shopping for an amaryllis, don’t limit yourself to what you can find in the store. Many online sources are available which allow you to have a bigger selection. You’ll find miniatures, doubles, or mini-doubles; bold stripes, variegated edgings, and so many colors.
Multiples of these plants, massed together as a collection, can light up a room; add fancy containers and you will have a stunning display. These bulbs will grow quickly. It’s amazing to watch an amaryllis start as a brown, tatty looking softball to spires of blooms as wide as nine inches and up to three feet tall.
It’s a great gift for children who will enjoy taking measurements as to how fast the plants grow! This time of the year, you can find amaryllis already potted and growing, in kits, or as bare bulbs. The kits include the bulb, soil and a container.
Potting an amaryllis bulb
If you decide to buy bulbs in person, choose bulbs that feel firm, without spots or visible damage. Soak the bulb’s roots for about an hour before potting. Select a pot about two inches wider than the bulb. Place a base of soil a few inches deep into the pot and tamp it down firmly.
Plant the bulb in the center of the pot and high enough that the neck of the bulb protrudes above the soil. Firm extra potting soil around the bulb with your fingertips. Water thoroughly and keep the pot in a warm, bright spot. Water sparingly until the stem appears. As the bud and leaves appear, gradually water more. Water when the soil feels dry; overwatering will result in bulb rot. Do not fertilize during flowering.
Instead of getting rid of the plant after flowering, consider growing amaryllis as a houseplant perennial. Promptly pinch off blossoms as soon as they start to droop and wither so the plant doesn’t waste energy trying to produce seeds. After flowering, cut flower stalks so that only two to four inches remain. Place the pot in a warm sunny spot, continuing to water as needed. Fertilize once or twice a month with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
In summer, place the potted plant outdoors and continue to water and fertilize. Around October, stop watering to allow the pot to dry out; or tip the pot on its side so rain won’t accumulate. The foliage will gradually turn yellow. Cut off the leaves to within two inches of the soil line. Watch the weather; before a hard frost hits the plant, place your pot in a cool (50 to 60 degrees), dark, dry place. A basement is perfect.
In November, it’s time for the light; bring your pot to a sunny, warm spot in the house and resume watering and feeding. You don’t have to repot your bulb every year; amaryllis bloom better when pot-bound. Repot every three to four years or add fresh soil to the top one-third of the pot each year. Amaryllis bring beauty to gray winter days, are easy to grow, and make a great gift. Give one to a friend or relative, but be sure to give one to yourself too!
Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County answers home and garden questions which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 315-736-3394, press 1 and ext. 333. Leave your question, name and phone number. Questions are answered weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, visit our website at cceoneida.com or phone 315-736-3394, press 1 and then ext.100.
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