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Tales from a Plant Addict

Fun (& a few serious) facts, tips and tricks for every gardener, new and old.

Amaryllis


One of my favorite indoor blooming plants is the amaryllis, a bulb commonly sold in the fall or around the Holidays for growing in the home. Unlike a lot of flowering indoor plants, the amaryllis is easily coaxed into reblooming year after year. As an added bonus, the bulb will produce offsets, or daughter bulbs that can be individually potted to increase your collection size or given to other amaryllis lovers.

If you currently have an amaryllis from last year that is nothing but a mass of green leaves this time of year, it's time to start the process to insure new blooms this winter. September is about the time to stop watering your amaryllis to prevent root rot as the bulb enters its natural rest period.

If your plant is outside, lay the pot on its side to remind yourself not to water, and to keep any rain off the soil. After night temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, bring your amaryllis indoors, either to the garage, or a cool spot in the house. Amaryllis can tolerate a light frost, but not a hard freeze. If your amaryllis has spent the summer indoors, move it to a cooler spot in your home and cease watering starting in September. Temperatures during the rest period should range from 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is natural for the leaves to yellow and die back during this time.

Most amaryllis need a rest period of about six weeks before they will bloom again. Some need as much as three to four months. To start your bulbs growing again each year, water thoroughly and don't water again until you see growth or the potting mix has completely dried out.

Amaryllis may be left in the same pot from year to year. They will produce more blooms if the roots are left undisturbed in their pots and they are slightly pot bound. Use a good quality general purpose planting mix and leave 1/3 to ½ of the bulb exposed above the soil. Every two to three years replace the soil in the pots either right before or right after the rest period.

The amaryllis in stores this holiday season is usually from the genus Hippeastrum, containing around 75 species of large-flowered bulbs originally found in Mexico and South America. In the 1700's Dutch bulb growers began experimenting with Hippeastrum bulbs brought back by explorers. It wasn't until 1837 that British botanist William Herbert gave the bulbs the genus name Hippeastrum, meaning "horseman's star". No one really knows why he gave the bulbs this name, but many think it must have something to do with the flower buds resembling horse's ears, and the flowers bearing a strong resemblance to a six-pointed star.

It used to be that amaryllis was commonly available in four basic colors: red, pink, white, and striped with red and white. Not anymore. There is a vast spectrum of the basic shades available, new colors, such as salmon, and color combinations such as petals with veins in a contrasting color.

Some unique amaryllis cultivars to look for:

  • 'Dancing Queen'—double-flowered red and white striped
  • 'Daphne'—mottled cranberry red and white
  • 'Marilyn'—double-flowered white
  • 'Terra Cotta Star'—salmon with red veins, green center
  • 'Rosy Star'—white with pink blush
  • 'Stardust'—deep red tipped with white
  • 'Nyora'—double-flowered orange, unique round flower shape
  • 'Avanti'—pink flower with white star in center
  • 'Pink Surprise'—deep pink flower with red veins

 

Amaryllis need bright indirect light to flower well in the home. As the flower bud and stem grow, they will tend to arch toward the available light. Turn the pot a quarter turn each day to keep the stem straight. Use caution when moving bulbs with tall stems and leaves, as they tend to be brittle and break easily.

After your amaryllis has flowered, care for it like any other green houseplant. Fertilize only after blooming is completed with a general houseplant fertilizer. Amaryllis are semi-tropical plants, and they prefer to be moved outdoors for the summer. Place them outdoors in an area where they receive some sun, but avoid prolonged exposure to hot afternoon sun-- this can burn the leaves.

 

 



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