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Cultivation of Amaryllis
Planting the bulb
  • Select a heavy, clean pot that's at least 1.5 times the diameter of the bulb. The pot should have a drainage hole and a saucer, and should not be shallow: it needs the weight of a good ball of soil, to prevent the top-heavy plant from tipping the pot over.
  • Fill the pot with soil. Use a good-quality potting soil that contains peat moss; it's light and retains moisture.
  • Plant the bulb by inserting it, roots down, into the soil. Press the soil firmly around the bulb. Leave a big shoulder of the bulb above the soil — from a half to a third. The smaller the shoulder, the more stable your plant will be, but the more prone to rot.
  • Water the soil around the bulb until the potting soil is moist (don't pour water on the bulb itself).
  • Place the pot in a warm, bright place (approximately 70 degrees F). Turn the pot daily. There's actually quite a lot of latitude here in how much light you give it.
    • If you give it full sun, it will come into bloom the fastest, and the bloom will also last the shortest.
    • You can delay blooming, and/or prolong it, by reducing the light. Amaryllis actually will bloom in indirect light, even under fluorescent office lights!]
  • Once growth begins, water the bulb to keep the soil moist; don't overwater.
  • Flowers will begin to open 6 to 8 weeks after you plant the bulb.

Getting it to bloom the next year

  • Cut off the flower stalk 2 inches from the bulb when the flowers are spent.
  • Feed it up. The bulb is exhausted, and you need to nourish it well in order for it to bloom again.
    • Add liquid fertilizer about once a month after blooming to keep the plant well nourished.
    • Give it plenty of sun. Fertilizer is like vitamins, sun is the main food of plants.
      • You can move the plant outdoors once the threat of frost has passed; place it in a shaded location.
      • Full sun indoors is just as good.
  • Dormancy:
    • In the fall (before frost), place the potted amaryllis in a cool, dry place (such as a basement or garage) when the leaves begin to yellow. Stop watering the bulb. Keep it here until the foliage dies down completely.
    • If leaves don't yellow by themselves by September, withhold water anyway, to force the dormancy.
    • (This dormancy makes these plants perfect for me. When my mold allergy got bad, I got rid of all my houseplants that needed to stay moist, in favor of things that could go bone dry. It doesn't get rid of the mold in potting soil, but it does reduce it. The worst mold season for me is September — so plants that stay dry then are especially good! )
    • Remove the bulb from the pot and keep it in a cool, dry place for 2 months. If you leave it in the pot and it will probably be fine too; however it does risk rot more.
    • Don't disturb the roots any time except when it's dormant
  • Repot the bulb, water it, and place it in a sunny location. It will rebloom in about 6 to 8 weeks after planting.

Learning from my mistakes — I hope

    Now I know that I didn't

    • feed Vijaya's gift plant enough
    • give it enough sun (I left it in the bay window all year. In the winter that gets great sun, but in the summer it's shaded a lot by a maple tree.)
    • give it a proper dormancy

    ...I hope I can treat it right, and get it blooming again too next winter. I have all these others now, too!

    When the maple leafs out, I figure I can put them, in their pots, outdoors in the garden under it. They may get a little morning sun there, but I'll bet not too much. And the maple has such a boring bed around it, the tall Amaryllis leaves would probably improve the mix. Right now there are mainly some midsize Hostas and some Artemisia pontica there, it's so dry I have trouble finding things that will grow.

    In general I like to grow things in my outdoor garden that don't need watering. It's just too much work. My back is not strong, and I'd rather spend it on rockwork, weeding and planting (curiously, digging doesn't bother it). But I will water the Amaryllis: these winter gems have captured my heart.

11 March 2000