Amaryllis Culture

Amaryllis is an increasingly popular holiday gift plant that is easy to grow and creates a showy splash with its huge, brightly colored flowers in late winter. The hybrid amaryllis is a tender bulb that grows easily in pots, but must be grown indoors in Nebraska except during the warm summer months. The flowers range in color from scarlet to white, and are often striped or mottled. The leaves are long and strap-like.

When growing amaryllis, choose a container that is only 1-2 inches wider than the bulb. The preferred soil mix for amaryllis is high in organic matter; for example two parts loam soil, one part perlite, one part well-rotted manure. If manure is not available, another source of organic matter, such as peat, leaf mold, composted bark or wood, or compost, may be used. Many amaryllis bulbs are sold with a container and potting soil; using these materials is fine for the first few years, until the bulb outgrows the container. Bulbs are usually received early in the winter. They can be potted at once, or stored in the box or nearly dry sand until the end of January when growth normally begins. Place the bulb in the container so that it is only halfway below the soil. Water the bulb thoroughly, and do not water again until the plant's roots are well developed as overwatering can lead to bulb rots. The foliage is weakened by being forced too rapidly if temperatures are higher than 50-60° F during the period before flowering. During bloom, cooler conditions will prolong the flowering period.

Usually leaves appear first, followed by the flower stalk. After the flowers have withered, cut the stem off about two inches above the bulb. Foliage growth is most active during the next two or three months and should be encouraged by ample water and fertilizer. When all danger of frost has passed, the plant may be plunged, pot and all, into the open ground in full sunlight, or it may be grown indoors in a bright location during the summer. Gradually decrease watering late in summer when the leaves begin to turn yellow. Allow the soil to become completely dry when the foliage has died back. While in this dormant state, the bulb should be left in the pot and stored in a cool place, preferably 40-45° F. Turn the pot on its side and do not water during the dormant period.

The usual flowering season for amaryllis is from February to April. The foliage continues growing during spring and summer, ripening early in the fall as temperatures decline and the soil is allowed to dry out. The bulb normally remains dormant until late winter (December or January). In January, bulbs should be repotted if necessary, then watered thoroughly to initiate growth. Bulbs that bloomed the previous year may need a year to recover before they will bloom again.