Holiday Amaryllis

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Primroses and pansies will add instant color to pots and flower beds. Combine them with bulbs for an extended season of bloom
    • Sasanqua camellias have lovely, delicate flowers that bloom through the winter months. Find a place for one of these hardy shrubs in the landscape.
    • There’s still time to plant bulbs. Consider putting some in containers so you can enjoy the flowers on your patio or by the front door.
    • Rake and destroy leaves from fruit trees that were diseased this year.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.

Holiday Stars: Giant Amaryllis

One of the most spectacular bulb flowers that can be grown indoors is the majestic Dutch amaryllis. Standing as high as two feet, with bright green foliage at its base, the trumpet-shaped, brilliantly colored, six-inch blooms come in clusters and are truly magnificent. Usually a second flower stalk appears after the first is through blooming, extending the blooming season.

The amaryllis is not forced indoors as other bulbs are, but flowers naturally in the winter as they do in their own tropical environment. It has become associated with the holiday season because many varieties are bright red and its blooming cycle begins in December.

Amaryllis also come in pink, white, salmon and striped red on white. ‘Red Lion’ is a deep, rich, velvet red that is a holiday classic, and ‘Vera’ is a lovely warm salmon-pink with a white throat. ‘Appleblossom’ has a white flower brushed with soft pink, ‘Minerva’ is red with a white star center and ‘White Christmas’ is pure white.

Dutch amaryllis can bloom anytime from December to April and they are planted between November and February. Each bulb will produce 2-3 stems and 4-6 flowers per stem and grows to an average of 20 inches in height. They will flower in 6-8 weeks after planting.

Amaryllis grow best in soil. The gift boxes come with a pot and “growing medium”, which is a coir disk made from coconut fibers. The coir disk is first placed in four cups of warm water until it completely absorbs the water. Then it can be loosened and the bulb nestled into the soil.

Set the bulb so that its widest part is at the soil line. Firm the soil around the bulb and water with lukewarm water. Water just enough to keep the soil barely moist until growth begins, then water more frequently as the leaves and flower stalk grow. The bulb will rot if kept too wet. Place the pot in a warm, sunny spot with good air circulation. Turn the pot a little each day to keep the stalk growing straight. When buds begin to open, move the plant out of direct sun to a cooler but bright location. They will bloom longer away from direct sunlight.

As the flowers begin to open, the plant will become top heavy. If it is in a light, plastic pot, you can place the plastic pot inside a ceramic pot to keep it steady.

After blooms fade, cut off the flower stalk and give the amaryllis plant the same care you do your other house plants, but avoid heavy watering. You can move the pots outdoors for the summer but bring them in before frost. Unlike many forced bulbs, amaryllis can be brought back to bloom for years and years.

To do this, feed it with houseplant fertilizer monthly through the summer. In the fall, usually around the middle of October, cut back all the foliage. For about a month to six weeks, put it in the dark and withhold water. On Thanksgiving, put it back in a sunny window and resume watering to initiate another wonderful season of bloom.