Gardening Topic for January 2008

Provided by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association

By Lyssa Peters, Master Gardener


Last December I suggested that everyone I know buy an Amaryllis bulb (Hippeastrum) for themselves this holiday season, promising to tell them all how to make it bloom again. But first I must make a confession: I have never actually accomplished that feat myself. I have grown some spectacular Amaryllis foliage, but have never gotten one to repeat bloom.
This year, armed with information from several sources, I was ready to try again.

Taking my own good advice I bought three bulbs, one for my mother-in-law, one for my daughter, and one for myself. My daughter left hers in her car on one of those very cold nights we had in December. She learned an important lesson. Do not leave your Amaryllis bulb out in freezing temps - it will not bloom this year; or ever!

My mother-in-law potted hers up right away and followed the directions on the package. She watered it lightly until it started to show growth, then she watered it well. In her toasty apartment (the average temperature is between 75-85) the flowering stalk shot up like a rocket and gave her 4 incredible pink and white flowers, then another set of 4 blossoms opened up as well. In the warm sunny apartment the whole show was over in a couple of weeks, but what fun!

I had put mine (still in the package) into the garage. Then I went on to other things. When I discovered it several weeks later, the bulb had already started to grow, and the stem was very crooked as it tried to grow upright in its box. I potted it up, watered it lightly and put it in a sunny window in a cool room, turning it every couple of days to straighten out the stem. All was going well. The flower stem was maybe 9 inches tall and a lovely bud starting to open when fate (in the form of a young male cat) intervened, and knocked over the pot. The stem bent and cracked open in two places. I considered bandaging the wound and supporting the stem with a stick, but had to admit it would probably never bloom. So, I cut off the stem and put it in a vase of water deep enough to cover the wound. Despite our naughty kitty, my Amaryllis bloomed beautifully in the vase on my kitchen counter. I had at least 6 lily shaped flowers, which opened in succession and lasted until after Christmas.
How DO we get our bulbs to bloom again? Most sources advise us to cut off the flower after bloom fades, but not the stalk. Place in sunny window and water when soil feels dry. Feed regularly. It is important to keep the foliage growing vigorously since it produces the food for next year’s blossoms. After danger of frost has passed (mid-May to Memorial Day in our area) you can put your Amaryllis outside for the summer. Morning sun and afternoon partial shade is ideal. Check the pot each day to see if water is needed, and feed regularly with water-soluble fertilizer.

Before the first autumn frost, bring your plant back inside. By this time the foliage may be completely yellowed. If not, place on a sunny windowsill indoors. When foliage is yellow, you know the bulb is ready to “rest.” Cut off foliage and stalk, withhold water, allowing the soil to dry completely, then store in a cool dry area (40 to 45 F) and do not water for 4 months.
When you want the bulb to flower again, scrape off the top layer of soil and replace with fresh soil, water thoroughly, then wait for growth to start before watering well again.

Note: Amaryllis do not like to have their roots disturbed, and prefer to be pot bound. Always plant in a pot that is no more than 1-1/2 to 2 inches larger in diameter that the bulb, and do not repot for several years.

I found some good instructions on growing Amaryllis at Click on Bulbs.
Good luck! Happy New Year!


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Provided by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association