It is blustery cold outside today in Charlotte, Vermont. The temperatures are a low of 24 degrees and dropping. Bright sunlight gives the illusion (wish) of warmth while strong northern winds cause a wind chill in the single digits. My son-in-law, a native Brazilian, is experiencing the coldest day of his life. I am arranging amaryllis bulbs in baskets to sell in our garden shop while fantasizing about the warmth of their native South Africa.
We associate the big beautiful flowers with the cold of winter but they are native to very warm climates. Dug and shipped to suppliers in the USA, they arrive in time to be planted for indoor winter gardening.
The bulbs you purchase already have all the energy they need to produce this year’s flowers. They don’t need special treatment, coaxing, a green thumb or fertilizer. If left forgotten in a warm spot they will push out blossoms without soil or water! However, it is preferable to pot them up. Here is how.
How to Plant Amaryllis
Choose a bulb that feels firm to the touch. Select a pot that is only slightly larger than the bulb. You will want a scant excess of an inch around the bulb. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole. Using sterile potting soil, put enough in the pot so that when planted, the top quarter of the bulb sits above the soil surface. Tuck soil all around the bulb and, if you want, top dress with decorative gravel.
Water well allowing excess water to drain before setting it on a coaster or dish. Place the potted bulb in a sunny warm site and leave it alone. Do not water it again until you notice fresh green shoots. Then water it thoroughly. As it grows you should water whenever the soil seems dry to the touch. I like to put the whole pot in the kitchen sink and soak it. Let it sit there while all the water drains away and then put it back on its coaster. You do not want the roots to sit in standing water.
Flowering can take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks depending on the state of dormancy of your bulb and the temperature of your room.
Amaryllis are florist favorites. They can last as a cut flower for up to 2 weeks. Sometimes if the weight of the blooms causes the stem to bend over, I cut the blossom and put it in a vase. Keep the cut flower in a cooler spot out of direct sunlight.
What to Do After an Amaryllis Flowers
Now the big question… What do I do with my amaryllis after it blooms?? There are lots of different answers. I will tell you what I have done. I cut the flower stalk to the base of the plant. Leave the bulb in a warm sunny spot and continue to water as usual. Come Spring, when the temperature has warmed to at least 50 degrees day and night, I gather all my potted bulbs and place them outside. Usually I tuck them in my herb garden where they get plenty of sunlight. They remain there, getting only rain water, until early November. I then bring them indoors and put them in the basement where they remain until I notice fresh, green shoots emerging. Once that happens I bring them up into a warm sunny room and start watering them.
Alternatively you could try what my friend Ted did one year. Ted inherited his mother’s amaryllis. It had been confined to life in a small flower pot for 5 years. Being the good gardener that he is he took pity on the plant and stuck it in his vegetable garden. The amaryllis grew and flourished. Just before the first frost he dug it up. The bulb had grown considerable and now had many side bulbs. Ted stuck it, dirt and all, into a clay pot and took it indoors. In January it started sending out multiple shoots. By the end of the month he had 5 blooming stalks, each with 4 flowers. It was absolutely stunning! I guess it goes to show that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to gardening.