This holiday favorite is so easy to grow!
Bold and bright...big and sassy...that's amaryllis! Few can resist these large, trumpet-shaped beauties during the drab days of winter. That's why millions become Christmas plants to add a burst of festive color during the holiday season.
This native of Central and South America derives its name from Greek and means "to shine." And, though it comes from a tropical environment, its popularity means it's easy to find just about anywhere plants are sold.
An Early Gift
The best selection is available on-line. A quick search will turn up fancy, large-blooming plants, miniature varieties, double bloomers, the unreal Cybister hybrids (with fantastic, spiderlike blooms) and the newest hybrids on the market.
Once you've selected a variety, buy the biggest bulbs possible. Why? The larger the bulb, the more blooms you get! Large, mature bulbs can produce as many as four oustanding flowers per scape, or flower stalk.
Because amaryllis traditionally are associated with Christmas, fall is the best time to buy bulbs. Pick up new varieties in October and November and plant them in clay pots that allow 1 to 1-1/2 inches of space around the bulb. Amaryllis prefer to be pot-bound, with only the top portions, or shoulders, of the bulb above the soil.
About 6 to 8 weeks after planting new bulbs, you'll have colorful blooming plants all over the house for Christmas and New Year's celebrations. When spring comes, move the plants to the backyard, where they serve as container plants. Their tall, broad leaves provide an architectural profusion of green.
In warmer climates, you don't need to bring all of your amaryllis inside for winter. Instead, stop watering them as your freeze date approaches, and move them to the south side of the house, covering them with 4 to 6 inches of straw. When spring arrives, remove the straw, and the plants produce blossoms about 2 months later.
In colder climates, however, amaryllis must be brought inside to keep them alive once the temperature starts to drop. Straw won't protect them from severe winter cold.
In these regions, store your amaryllis in a place that maintains a constant 55 degree temperature. Make sure to keep them away from light and don't water them—the plants need this dormant period to recharge and bloom again.
If you'd like to coax them to rebloom at Christmas, you'll need to keep them in this cool, dim place for 6 to 8 weeks. Then move the pots to a bright window that receives at least 4 hours of direct sun each day. Water them thoroughly when the soil starts to dry. In another 6 to 8 weeks, you'll have an armful of gorgeous blooms.
Forcing amaryllis to rebloom isn't easy, but if you're up for a challenge, the bright colors of a success make it worth your efforts.
Amaryllis come in a varied array of shapes, sizes and hues that are sure to please the pickiest plant lover. Best of all, you can influence when your bulbs bloom—whether you want blooms amid the snow and cold of winter, or on a balmy spring day. You can even do both if you like!
Amaryllis Plant Profile
Common name: Amaryllis.
Botanical name: Hippeastrum.
Bloom Time: January through April.
Hardiness: Generally grown as a houseplant.
Flower Colors: White, pink, salmon, red, orange, green and yellow; some hybrids have bicolor blooms.
Flower Shape: Funnel or trumpet-shaped blossoms; both single and double flowering varieties.
Height: 1 to 3 feet.
Light Needs: Full sun or bright, filtered light.
Soil Type: A well-draining potting mix.
Planting: Plant from November to February in a container that is 1 to 2 inches wider than the bulb. Use a rich potting mix and make sure the bulb's shoulders are just above the soil surface. Water plants sparingly until rapid growth begins.
Special Care and Propagation: After flowering is complete, remove flower stalks. Apply a dilute solution of flowering-plant fertilizer every other week or as needed while foliage grows, usually for 3 to 5 months. By mid-summer, reduce watering or stop completely to allow the bulb to become dormant.
Prize Picks: 'Star of Holland' has large red blooms with white star shapes in the center. 'Picotee' produces showy white flowers with red margins, and 'Lady Jane' offers double rosy apricto flowers with white stripes.
Warning: All parts of the amaryllis are poisonous.