The amaryllis (Hippeastrum) is a popular holiday gift and a wonderful way to brighten your home during the gray winter months. Although this tender bulb requires a warm climate in order to live outdoors year-round, it adapts well to pot culture. The showy flowers come in shades of red, scarlet, white, orange, pink, peach and salmon.
The flowering season of the amaryllis is approximately February through April. The foliage grows throughout the spring and summer, and ripens in the fall. Bulbs require a dormant period of about eight to 10 weeks in the late winter, after which they can be forced to bloom again. Bulbs take about six to eight weeks from planting to blooming.
If you have been given an amaryllis in a kit, it is ready to bloom. If you are buying your own bulbs, look for big, solid ones. Choose a container with a drainage hole. The size of the pot depends on the size of the bulb. There should be no more than one inch of space between the side of the bulb and the pot.
Use an all-purpose soil mix with good drainage, or make your own mix from equal parts garden loam, peat moss, and Perlite or sand. Place the bulb so only half of it is under the soil, leaving the pointed end exposed. Press the soil firmly around the bulb and leave an inch between the top of the soil and the rim of the pot. Allow the soil to dry after the initial watering; too much water could cause the bulb to rot. Once growth commences, keep the soil moist but not wet.
Once the flowering stem begins emerging, keep the pot in a sunny spot and apply a balanced fertilizer every 10 days. Turn the pot frequently so the stalk doesn't lean toward the light, or it may require staking.
When flowering is done, cut the stalk two inches above the bulb with a sharp knife. This is the period when the foliage is actively growing, so continue watering and fertilizing. Keep your plant indoors in bright sun, or move the pot outside once all danger of frost has passed.
Gradually decrease watering in late summer as the leaves start turning yellow. Let the soil go completely dry as the leaves die back. During the bulb's dormant stage, leave it in its pot in a cool place.
If the bulb is crowding against the sides of the pot or producing small bulbs, repot using a slightly larger container before watering to bring it out of dormancy. Remove the bulb from the pot and gently remove as much old soil as possible without damaging the roots. Plant offset bulbs in small pots; they will require a few years to reach blooming size.
Staggering Bloom Times
If you have more than one amaryllis, stagger their blooms so you have amaryllis flowers through the spring. Begin by potting the first bulb in late January, and continue planting another bulb every other week or so through the end of March.