In addition to the Christmas cactus and poinsettia, the amaryllis has become a favorite gift for the holidays. The amaryllis (Hippeastrum) originated in the tropical regions of South America. The bulbs are long lived and easy to grow. The bulbs will produce four beautiful trumpet shaped blossoms on a tall stalk. Bulbs often produce multiple stalks of four flowers each. These perennial bulbs will continue to bloom year after year with minimum care. Flowers, which last up to 8 weeks, come in various shades of red, white, salmon, pink, orange and even striped!

To plant an amaryllis bulb, select a pot about 5 to 7 inches in diameter. The bulb should feel crowded in order to bloom. Always leave about an inch of soil between the bulb and the pot. Setting the bulb in lukewarm water for a few hours will revive it more quickly. Fill the pot about half full of rich potting soil, then water the soil well. Next, place the bulb in the pot, pointed end up and fill with soil leaving the neck of the bulb an inch above the soil. Covering the neck can lead to a rotted bulb. Be sure to firm the soil around the neck so the bulb will have support. You may want to insert a bamboo rod at this time to support the flower stalk later.

Place the potted bulb in a warm spot that receives bright indirect light. Turning the plant from time to time will prevent it from becoming one sided. Water sparingly until the stalk appears. Then keep the soil moist but not saturated. According to Sandra at Bonnie’s Greenhouse, the newly potted bulb will bloom in 8 to 10 weeks. She potted bulbs on Oct. 12 and they should bloom by December 23rd.

Amaryllis flower in the winter and then grow foliage during the summer to store up nutrition for the next flowering. After bloom, cut off the flowers as they fade. When the stem droops, cut if off about 2 inches above the bulb. Apply a slow release fertilizer now. Continue to water normally. When temperatures are above 55 degrees you can set the pot outside .Amaryllis love the sunshine. The bulbs will grow larger and produce larger blooms when allowed to grow in the sun during the summer. Fertilizing monthly will also aid their growth.

In a Houston garden, Hippeastrum johnsonii have blooming for 80 years One Waco grandmother was given an amaryllis every Christmas by her grandchildren. She planted the bulbs in a flower bed in her back yard. Their continued blooming has been a lasting gift. Another Waco resident moved her amaryllis bulbs to the garden when the weather warmed. She planted them near the house with morning sun and afternoon shade. The bulbs bloomed again in May. Some varieties will bloom again in the fall.

If you want your amaryllis to bloom at Christmas time, the bulbs need about 6 to 8 weeks of dormant time. About August first, withhold water. Turn the pot on its side to prevent accidental watering. Store it in a cool location or remove the bulb after the leaves wither, dust it off and store it in the refrigerator. Just beware, if apples are also in the refrigerator, your bulbs will be sterilized by the ethylene gas from the fruit. After a minimum of 6 weeks, just repot in a container about 4 inches larger than the bulb, using good potting soil. Place in warm sunny location and water. In about 8 weeks you should have a lovely flower.


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