The large, brilliantly colored flowers of the amaryllis plant have endeared it to gardeners worldwide. In North America the outdoor range of these subtropical plants is limited to Florida and the coast of Southern California. In cooler climates Amaryillis, or Hippeastrum as it is known botanically, is very popular as a house plant, much admired for its vibrant red, pink and orange blooms.
Amaryllis does not always grow true from seed, so this method of propagation is not widely used. Seeds can be harvested from the seed pods that ripen four to five weeks after pollination. The seeds are ready to plant in flats or trays immediately. Use vermiculite, perlite or a blend of peat moss and sand as a potting mix and plant the seeds 1/4 inch deep. Seedlings may be transplanted to larger pots after they have developed at least two sets of leaves.
The bulbs of the amaryllis have basal plates at the bottom much like onions. The bulbs can be cut into vertical sections for propagation provided each piece has at least a portion of the basal plate attached. Several months after flowering, the bulbs can be dug up and divided in this way. The bulb sections should be planted by placing the lower third containing a piece of the basal plate into moistened vermiculite. It normally takes four to eight weeks for seedlings to develop with this method.
Offsets are small bulbs that grow from the sides of an existing bulb. For effective propagation, Amaryllis offsets should be at least 1/4 the size of the mother bulb. After the amaryllis plants start to die back in the fall, dig up the bulbs to check for offsets large enough to plant and remove them by cutting or breaking them off. Both the offsets and the mother bulb should be replanted immediately. Trim the stem and roots of the mother bulb to about 2 inches in length before replanting.
The time required for plants to bloom after propagation depends on the method used. Propagation by cuttage has the shortest turn around with blooms usually appearing in the second or third year. Amaryllis grown from offsets may take three or four years to flower. Plants propagated from seed can be unpredictable when it comes to flowering.
Before propagating, the plants should be examined for any sign of disease. Amaryllis is prone to red-blotch, also called leaf scorch, which is characterized by reddish spots and patches that can occur anywhere on the foliage or bulbs. Mild cases may respond to treatment with copper fungicide. Mosaic is another ailment common to amaryllis. It is identified by red streaks and yellow spots on the leaves. In the case of mosaic or serious red-blotch the plant or bulb should be destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease.