One of my beautiful amaryllis plants is in full bloom, bringing some cheer to this slow spring. Amaryllis flowers occur in bright red, yellows, white, or my favorite, striped pink. Most flowers have no scent, except the pink ones have a very light, lily fragrance when fully opened.
Amaryllis are the ubiquitous bulb in a box, just add water, that are sold in a wide range of stores from before Christmas through the spring. Once the magic of the fast growing stalk and massive display of blossoms fades, most amaryllis are tossed in the trash. A sad end to a plant that can thrive for years. A little care will bring any bulb into bloom over and over.
The large bulb of the amaryllis is packed with nutrients, helping the flower stalk to reach such heights and fill with blooms as wide as a salad plate. After blossoming, the nutrients must be renewed for the bulb to grow again.
To save the bulb, remove each flower as it wilts, right where the stem of the flower meets the main stalk. Allow the stalk to wilt and shrivel before removing it so the plant can reclaim nutrients. Cut the stalk near the top of the bulb, but do not damage the leaves.
Feed the bulb with it’s long, bright green leaves, regular houseplant fertilizer and keep the soil evenly moist. Give fertilizer regularly, the bulb must store plenty of energy for the next flowers. The bulb in its pot can even be moved outside in the summer and grown in a partly shaded area. I keep mine inside to prevent any insect invasions.
Use regular houseplant potting soil with a little peat mixed in. The pot should be just large enough to contain the roots without too much room, or the bulb will try to divide and form two or more plants. Dividing is fine if you want lots of amaryllis, but it uses energy and the bulbs won’t bloom the next year.
As the bulb has stored the energy it requires to bloom again, the leaves will turn yellow. Remove each leaf as it dies. When all the leaves are gone, place the bulb in its pot in a dark, dry, cool place to rest. Water sparingly, just enough to keep the bulb from withering. After about two months, the bulb will start to send up the pointy tips of new flower stalk and leaf growth. Move the pot out into full light, water well and stand back. In no time, if the bulb has been well fed, the glorious blooms will show again.
To prolong the life of each flower, remove the anthers as soon as they are visible, before they open and produce pollen.
The flowering stalk on this plant is 22″ tall. The first three flowers opened within two days. The fourth bud is waiting, biding its time until the others are faded and it can have all the attention.
Sometimes, a young or underfed bulb will only produce two or three flowers on a stalk, or will sprout leaves and no flower. Just feed it better, let it grow and try again next time.
If necessary, repot the bulb after the leaves have died, before placing in darkness. The pot should have drainage holes, the roots like to be uniformly moist while actively growing, but not drowned. Should the bulb divide, put the second bulb in another pot and consider yourself lucky to have doubled your flowering potential.
Mist the leaves during the growing season to dust. The papery covering of the bulb can be removed as it sheds. Watch for tiny burrowing insects that might try to make the bulb their home and use any insecticide, commerical or organic, to remove them. Most bulbs kept entirely inside have no insect problems.
With minimal effort, amaryllis bulbs will flourish for years, providing a brilliant show in the cold months when it is most appreciated.