Enchanting Amaryllis

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Choose shade trees for fall color now and plant them while the soil is still warm.
    • Divide artichoke plants which have been in the ground for three or four years. Mulch established plants with steer manure.
    • Plant cover crops in the garden where summer plants have finished. Fava beans and crimson clover will grow through the winter and improve your soil for spring planting.
    • Seed slopes with annual ryegrass to prevent erosion and improve the soil for later plantings.

Enchanting Amaryllis

Amaryllis belladonna, known as Naked Ladies, are a wonderful fall flower that is truly easy to grow. A native of South Africa, it is well adapted to our dry summer, Mediterranean climate.

Each September the large flower bulbs send up one or two tall bare flower stems about two feet tall. Then each flower stem bursts into bloom with a cluster of large, bright pink, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. Up to twelve flowers are produced from the flowering stem and they tend to face southward toward the sun. The bare stems with no leaves give rise to the common name, Naked Lady.

After flowering, the large strap-shaped leaves appear. The leaves remain green throughout the winter and die down in the summer when the bulb becomes dormant. After they are finished blooming is the time to plant them. Plant the large bulbs about twelve inches apart with just their necks showing and divide them in the fall when they get too crowded.

The bulbs are almost indestructible and multiply readily. In fact, about the only way to kill them is with kindness, by watering during the summer, applying fertilizer or burying them in mulch.

They grow in full sun or partial shade. They like well-drained soil and can take dry soil all summer. The deer generally leave them alone so you can plant them along driveways and in exposed areas. They can be used for naturalizing on a bank, along a fence line, or in a vacant corner.

There are other, similar bulbs that go by the common name of amaryllis. The so-called Christmas amaryllis actually belongs to the genus Hippeastrum. They bear giant red trumpet-shaped flowers at Christmas time, rather than in the summer.

Beautiful amaryllis hybrids come from Holland, and are available as named varieties in many separate colors. These hybrid strains have impressively large flowers, 8 to 9 inches across and 4 to 6 flowers to a stem, often with two stems growing from each bulb. The color range includes bright reds, salmon, soft pink, coral pink, white and red-and-white.

They are easily grown in 6-inch pots. Plant them so at least 2/3 of the bulb is above soil level. Keep the potted bulbs in a cool light place at about 50° until the roots are well developed. When leaves start to appear, move them into a warmer room. Bulbs bloom in about six weeks from planting.

The bulbs are tender and must be keep indoors or on a frost-free porch until summer. Then they should be brought back inside in late September when they go dormant.

Enjoy beautiful amaryllis in both fall and winter by planting them now, indoors and out.