Amaryllis Care After the Holidays

Sandie Bailey
Adams County Master Gardener

The calmness of a monochromatic color scheme and the sculptural aspect of deciduous trees and shrubs are the gifts of winter. I appreciate this season for the respite it brings from arduous work in the garden and the time it affords for planning all those projects that will make me tired next year.

As sure as May 15 is the last frost date for Adams County, after the holiday decorations come down, I will be LONGING for something beautiful and colorful. Modern types of Dutch hybrid amaryllis make a wonderful show. They come in flower colors including white, red, pink, orange, salmon and bi-colors. The time to begin planting for this mid-winter flower show is now.

By staggering the potting dates of bulbs, you can extend the flowering period from December to May. You can force bulbs to flower in six to eight weeks inside at nearly any time of year. Start with clean, heavy pots with holes sufficient for drainage. Use 6-inch pots for large bulbs and 5-inch pots for smaller ones. Choose a planting media that will also provide significant weight.

When planting the bulb, bury it half way or less. Water only enough to keep media barely moist. At this stage maintain a minimum temperature of 55-60F. As soon as the roots have established and there is new top growth, apply more water. The temperature may then be increased to 75 F. Once the bulbs have begun to bloom, cooler temperatures will prolong the flowers.

After the flowers die, put the plant in a west or east window with bright light to keep the first leaves healthy. Additional leaves will form later. A healthy, well-grown plant will generally produce four leaves for every flower spike. If a plant produces eight leaves during the summer, you may get two flower spikes next winter.

If your bulb does not flower, it could be for one of several reasons. Small bulbs may be too young to flower. Fertilizer high in nitrogen will result in excessive foliage at the expense of flowers. Finally, amaryllis must have adequate sunlight for proper growth and blooming.

Flower production takes a considerable toll on the vigor of the bulbs. Water with any houseplant fertilizer at least once a month. Amaryllis benefit by being planted in a partially shaded flower bed during the summer months. They can be kept inside and still flower next year if given ample light from an east or west window. Next winter knock the bulb out of the pot and replant with fresh potting soil.

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