by Carol Anderson, Master Gardener in Training
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp) is a beautiful flowering bulb that is native to South America. In Canada, we have traditionally considered it as “The flower of Christmas/Winter Bloom” and as such it is often given as a gift and sold during and for the holiday season.
Due to our harsh climate, the Amaryllis has been considered largely as an indoor plant that brings beautiful blooms (and great joy) into our homes during the cold and often grey days of winter. However, with some care, patience, and appreciation for the process, you can enjoy your prized Amaryllis for perhaps as long as 25 years (if you are lucky!!).
How to Enjoy Your Amaryllis Year Round
The trick to year-round enjoyment is ensuring that the Amaryllis bulb experiences a “cool period” (~50-55 degrees F) for 8 to10 weeks before attempting to bloom/rebloom. This “rest period” (not a true dormancy) is critical but can be accomplished through careful planning – enabling both a winter and summer blooming period to occur year after year. The Amaryllis can be enjoyed indoors during the winter months or in a spectacular garden display during the summer.
When to Grow Your Amaryllis
You can determine the best timing to plant, depending upon when you would like to enjoy the peak blooming period. The following timeline demonstrates the 3 critical periods and growth patterns for the Amaryllis. Understanding this timeline enables you to plan around when you would like to enjoy the spectacular blooms.
For example, a cool period from September through November, followed by a planting and a growth period from December through January will ensure winter blooms in January – March to bring life and enjoyment in the winter months inside your home.
Following the minimum “cool period”, you can consider when you would like to enjoy the blooms again, remembering that the bulbs require a warm moist growing period of ~ 8 weeks with bright indirect light before they will bloom again. Therefore, if planting outdoors to enjoy summer blooms, the bulbs may need to be started indoors where the temperature is warmer (70-75 degrees F) to stimulate the necessary growth of roots and shoots.
How to Grow Your Amaryllis
Here are some growing tips to ensure success:
- Upon purchase or when coming out of the “cool period”, soak the bulb roots for 1-2 hrs in room temperature water to rehydrate the roots before planting.
- Depth: Plant the bulb 2/3 under the soil with 1/3 above the soil line ensuring that the bulb is above the pot edge.
- Soil: use a good nutritious potting compost that has good drainage (avoid peat to prevent moisture retention that could cause rotting).
- Water sparingly until the stems appear, and then regularly
- Light: bright indirect light; keep warm with a temperature 70-75 degrees during the growing period (Note: a lower temperature ~ 65 degrees once blooming will prolong the blooming period)
- Staking: stems can grow >24 inches and blooms are “top-heavy”. Staking is recommended. Consider using a natural twig/dogwood staking mesh (see below) which can later be covered with evergreen/holy sprigs pinecones and cranberries for a beautiful table display.
The leaves of the Amaryllis are needed to continue photosynthesis and replenish and store the necessary food/sugars in the bulb for future blooming…so remember to keep them intact until they die back. Some tips for replanting…
- Remove old flowers right away (so that plant energy is redirected)
- Trim stem to the top of the bulb when it begins to sag
- Cut back leaves (only when they turn brown) to 1-2” above the bulb tip
- Remove the bulb from the soil (new nutritious soil will be needed for regrowth)
- Clean bulb of excess soil and store in a 45-55 degree cool, dark area until ready to plant. (Note: a fridge crisper can be used…but not if apples are present due to ethylene gas that could affect blooming).
Enjoying your Amaryllis blooms both summer and winter is possible for any enthusiast. Although it requires some planning and work, the pay-off can be extraordinary.
A mass planting with 10-12 bulbs (or more) outdoors in summer can be easily converted to beautiful indoor displays throughout your home during the holiday season – bringing joy and the anticipation for spring gardening into our hearts and minds during the deep winter months…