Bulbs

My amaryllis bloomed today!

The first flower of Flamenco Queen amaryllis is almost fully open.
The first flower of Flamenco Queen amaryllis is almost fully open.

It is a day I look forward to every winter. The bud has been opening slowly, flirtatiously over the last few days and today it has reached the culmination of the energy stored in that voluptuous bulb planted several weeks ago.

I plant several types each winter and this one has reached the finish line first. Following close behind is Exotic Peacock and Clown. They will bring as much joy as Flamenco Queen.

If you haven’t yet planted an amaryllis, there’s still time. You may even find some great deals at garden centers as they begin clearing winter merchandise. Why not? Their exotic blooms are welcome any time!

Here’s how to grow amaryllis:

Choose the best bulb.
Some folks may tell you size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to amaryllis, it sure does. Choose the biggest bulbs you can afford. The larger the bulb, the higher the price tag – it is nothing to spend upwards of $20 for the biggest available – and every penny is well spent. The larger the bulb, the more stalks and flowers. Regardless of size, the bulb should also be dry and firm.

Plant an amaryllis bulb so its shoulders are at soil level.
Plant an amaryllis bulb so its shoulders are at soil level.

Select a container.
Choose a pot that is deep enough for the roots of the amaryllis to grow. Make sure it has a drainage hole. The pot should be an inch or two wider than the bulb.

Plant the bulb.
Fill the bottom of the pot with a light potting mix. Position the bulb so that at least a third of the bulb will be above the soil. Gently firm the soil around the bulb and water thoroughly. Do not water again until you see new growth. Fertilizer is not needed – the bulb holds all the food it needs.

Begin to water again when new growth begins.
Begin to water again when new growth begins.

As your amaryllis grows, water it to keep the soil just slightly moist. Overwatering will cause bulbs to rot. Six to eight weeks later, you are rewarded with magnificent flowers! When blooms begin, move your amaryllis out of direct sunlight so they don’t fade.

Care for amaryllis after bloom.
If you want to keep your amaryllis for another round of flowers, how you care for your bulb after blooming is very important. As each flower fades, cut it off at the top of the stem. The stem works in tandem with leaves to return energy to the bulb. You can remove the stem completely once it yellows.

Continue to grow it as a houseplant. Move it to a sunny window and increase watering. Fertilize every 4 weeks with a liquid fertilizer or apply a slow release fertilizer.

When all danger of frost has passed in the spring, move your amaryllis outside to a protected site for a few days to acclimate it to its new home. Gradually move it to a sunny site, continue to water and fertilize, and let it grow all summer.

As early as mid-August, but no later than before the first frost, bring it indoors for a resting phase. Stop watering and move to a cool, dark place. Most of the foliage will shrivel or fall off during this period. Check from time to time and bring them back into the light if you see new growth. It should take about 8 weeks.

Now is the time to refresh the soil or repot. Remove the top inch of soil from the top of the pot and replace with fresh soil. Move the bulb to a slightly larger pot if necessary and the process begins again.

One of my goals for self-improvement in 2016 is to be less wasteful, less of a consumer. I have always wanted to try over-summering my amaryllis and this is the year. If you have already done this, maybe you have some pointers for me. If not, why don’t you try too and we’ll compare notes. Garden with me!

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