Amaryllis plants are native to Africa but can be grown anywhere indoors and outdoors in zones 8 to 10. They like plenty of light and will produce vibrant flowers around the Christmas period. They can also be easily forced to produce blooms at other times of year. Amaryllis can also be grown from seed. Each bloom produces a seedpod about 4 weeks after the flower has been fertilized. Seeds will produce healthy plants that will flower after three or four seasons.
Choosing an Amaryllis Bulb
When you are choosing an amaryllis bulb, examine the available bulbs carefully. Choose a bulb that is large, round and plump. The bulb should feel firm to the touch and not have any soft, squishy spots or mold on the surface. Avoid bulbs that have a strong, rotten odor. Selecting healthy bulbs will ensure the production of strong plants that will also produce side bulbs so that you can divide them and grow new plants.
One of the most important things about any bulb is that it must be planted in well drained soil to prevent it from rotting. To mix your own blend of potting soil, add two parts loam (by volume), two parts fine gravel and one part leaf mold. To test whether you have a good mix for drainage, fill an empty pot with your soil mix and water. Observe if for a few days to see how it drains. If suitable, plant your bulb. You can also buy commercially made potting compost that is specially mixed for bulbs, is high in nutrients and has excellent drainage.
Watering the Bulb
Amaryllis should be watered regularly throughout the growing season, enough to keep the soil moistened. If you want to force it to flower during the winter season, allow it to have a dormant period. To encourage this begin to reduce watering in August and after 3 weeks stop watering altogether. The leaves will yellow and die. Allow them to do this before removing them, then cut them off about an inch above the bulb. In September put the bulb (still in its pot) in a dark, dry place where the temperature is around 50 or 60 degrees F for 6 to 8 weeks from when you removed the stems. Return the bulb to the light and begin watering again, keeping the soil moist but not soaked. The plant should flower within 6 weeks after watering is resumed. Remember that plants in clay pots need watering about twice as often as those in plastic pots.