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Amaryllis Bulbs Make Terrific House Plants!

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One of the most spectacular flowering houseplants associated with the holiday season is the Amaryllis bulb. They’re very popular, make wonderful gifts, and will brighten anyone’s home. If you haven’t had a chance to try one, do so, they’re lots of fun and very rewarding!

Just follow these tips and you’ll enjoy your amaryllis for many years to come!

For dormant bulbs:

If you’re starting with a dormant bulb plant it into a pot slightly larger in diameter than your bulb. Amaryllis prefer to be root bound so one inch of space all around is sufficient. Always use a good quality potting mix and a pot with good drainage. If your Amaryllis came in a “kit” with no drainage holes, knock out or drill out the “drainage spots” to create good drainage. Amaryllis are tropical plants and will not tolerate cold conditions. Place your newly potted dormant bulb in a warm location like on top of a refrigerator or on a seed starting heating pad. An initial watering will activate the bulb and begin the growing process. Always use lukewarm water, never cold tap water. After one thorough watering do not water again until there are several inches of growth, or the soil has completely dried out. Bulbs may decay if they’re kept too moist for extended periods of time; it’s better to cycle them from moist to dry and back to moist again.

For developing and flowering plants:

Once your bulb “wakes up” and begins to grow, bright light becomes critical. I recommend placing potted Amaryllis in bright indirect light locations or beneath grow lights (12 hours per day) to accelerate their development and create healthy house plants. Once flowers begin to develop, avoid drafty areas or locations near heat exchanges which could dry them out too quickly. They like bottom warmth but not too much heat. Check the soil’s moisture level every few days (pot weight is an excellent indicator of water content). Once open, flowers will last several days to a couple of weeks depending upon air temperatures and light conditions. Many bulbs will have multiple flower stalks.

For plants after flower:

As individual flower “trumpets” fade, cut them off leaving the long stalk to slowly die back. This allows their energy to flow back down into your bulb. Once the flower stalk has yellowed and started to shrivel, cut it off an inch or two above the neck of the bulb. Do not cut off the leaves as they are busy photosynthesizing, rebuilding the bulb and developing new flowers for the next holiday season. Treat the Amaryllis as you would any other houseplant. Water thoroughly and then allow to dry out. Fertilize periodically and make sure it receives plenty of light.  Once the warm weather arrives, move the bulb outdoors late spring. You may even plant the leafed-out bulb into your garden for the summer as a textural backdrop specimen or use it in a container with geraniums and other flowering annuals as you would dracaena spikes or ornamental grasses. They prefer a bright indirect light to full sun location.

For resting the plant:

Once summer has passed the bulb will have rebuilt itself and will be firm and large. After Labor Day stop watering to induce a gradual die-back. If planted in the ground, dig it up and replant into a pot with adequate drainage holes approximately 1 to 2 inches larger than the bulb. Large orchid pots work well as they allow the bulb and roots to breath. Shake off the garden soil and use a good quality potting mix when placing into your pot. You’ll have to trim roots in order to fit it.  If you maintained your Amaryllis in a container all summer check to see if it requires transplanting into a larger pot which it probably will. Follow the instructions above if that is the case. Your bulb will be “root-bound” so trim the roots back a bit before transplanting into the larger pot. Do Not Water! Allow the foliage to continue to yellow and fade.  This is necessary as the leaves replenish the bulb’s food storage.  Once this has occurred, cut off the leaves 2 inches above the bulb’s neck and place the pot in a cool-dark location to rest for approximately eight weeks.

Now you’ll be ready to re-awaken your bulb with a warm watering and bottom heat. This will start the process all over again. You’ll get more flower stalks with even larger blossoms this time around. Stop by and pay Van Putte Gardens a visit where one of our green thumb specialists can help you with the things you’ll need for your Amaryllis bulb / houseplant.

Success with your Gardening, Naturally!

Written by Rick Stecher, Garden Center Manager

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