Growing Amaryllis

Amaryllis, or Hippeastrums as they are more correctly named, bear beautiful, exotic looking flowers and are really easy to grow. Just plant the bulb in good potting soil. Some thin, twiggy birch or hazel sticks added to the pot will provide some support to keep the blooms upright, but little else is required. Water regularly and provide bright, indirect light. Blooms will appear four to six weeks after planting.

Large Amaryllis bulb ready for planting
Large Amaryllis bulb ready for planting

Having never grown them before, I've decided on growing just one this year to see how I get on and then treating myself to a new variety next year. You can keep bulbs for flowering again the following year so they are a good investment. I like the idea of having some flowers on display in the house in the dark Winter months. If you plant your Amaryllis towards the end of October then you should have blooms in time for Christmas.

I've chosen a variety called 'Lima' which has deep burgundy flowers with a hint of green. There are some lovely understated varieties on offer. I've been put off in the past as some Amaryllis flowers seemed a bit loud and vulgar but if you browse the bulb catalogues, you are sure to find one that you like. Think about your interior decoration and what will look good in your house.

Potting up

Plant each bulb in a heavy, 6-8" pot. You can add a drainage layer of crocks or gravel to the bottom of the pot to assist drainage and also provide ballast. Lightweight pots may tip over. Plant the bulb, pointed-end-up, in potting compost. Pack the soil gently around the bulb so approximately one-third of the bulb remains above the soil.
Amaryllis bulb
Amaryllis in its pot

Aftercare

Place in a sunny location, out of direct sunlight, and water sparingly until you see about 2" of new growth. From then on, water regularly. As the plant grows, turn the pot periodically to encourage the stalk to grow straight. Within five to eight weeks, you will have an exciting and dramatic floral display. When in flower, if you move the plant to a cooler place, about 15–18°C (60-65°F), you will extend the flowering period.

Each individual flower should last two or even three weeks before they go brown. As each one fades, cut it off at the top of the stalk.

Keeping bulbs for next year

Amaryllis can be encouraged to flower again the following year. It just takes a little planning and extra care, but it is worth it if you find a variety you really like.

When the whole stalk has finished flowering and begins to sag, cut it to within 1" of the top of the bulb. Continue to water and feed regularly with liquid houseplant feed. Your bulb will grow a few leaves during Spring and Summer to help produce energy for the following year's flowers. In mid-August, start to withhold water and let the foliage die back naturally until the pot dries out completely. Store the dormant bulb in a cool, dark and dry place for a minimum of eight weeks. Approx. 5-8 weeks before you want the Amaryllis to flower again, repot the bulb in fresh potting soil and resume watering — sparingly at first. Once you see new growth, increase watering. By following these basic guidelines, you will be able to encourage your amaryllis to flower year after year.

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