It’s that time of year again… the time when I start combing catalogs and websites to pick out this year’s addition to my amaryllis collection! Each year, I treat myself to one new amaryllis bulb – just one, because they can cost $15 – $20 apiece, but the gorgeous blooms make my investment worth it. Here are a few of the blooms I’ve collected in the past:
Technically, these bulbs are more properly called Hippeastrum. True amaryllis is a different species, differentiated by its complete lack of leaves (leading some to call it “Naked Lily”). For a long time, even botanists were confused by the differences, so even though the bulbs sold as “Amaryllis” today are really Hippeastrum, the old name has stuck and no one but botanists seem overly concerned about the difference. Why should we, when the long-lasting flowers produced by these bulbs are just so very beautiful?
These bulbs are often sold at Christmastime, since they flower well indoors at that time of year. You can find “amaryllis kits”, which include a bulb, potting soil, and plastic pot, for less than $10 in many stores this time of year, and they do make nice gifts. But there are so many more choices out there if you’re willing to spend a little more. Here are some of the varieties tempting me this year, all available at American Meadows:
When properly cared for, amaryllis bulbs will re-bloom year after year. In zones 8 – 10, the easiest way to accomplish this is simply to plant them outside, where the natural growing conditions will generally cause these flowers to re-bloom in late winter or early spring. Even better, like all bulbs, they will produce small “bulblets” off to the side, which you can separate and plant on their own, creating many more plants from the original. The bed shown below started from about fifteen bulbs planted around ten years ago in Tampa; they’ve since spread to fill in this area and several more beds around the nearby gardens. They are an amazing sight when they bloom, usually at the end of February or beginning of March.
In colder zones, you’ll have to mimic the growth cycle, which needs to include a dormant period. Click here for detailed instructions on getting your amaryllis to re-bloom year after year. It takes a little extra effort, but I don’t think you’ll be sorry when you see these big flowers appear each year to brighten the darker months.
Are you an amaryllis collector? What varieties are your favorites? Tell us in the comments below, and help me choose my new “amaryllis investment” for 2013!