Amaryllis Propagation | News, sports, jobs

Amaryllis Propagation |  News, sports, jobs

Photo by Debra Burrows A large amaryllis bulb with extensive root growth and many bulbs.

In November of 2020, I wrote about caring for amaryllis bulbs (Hippeastrum spp.), which are popular winter holiday gifts. In this column, I will go beyond caring about them and focus on spreading them.

Propagation refers to the process of growing additional plants from the parent plant. In the case of amaryllis, propagation can be surprisingly easy.

Keeping the plant healthy and growing after it has flowered is key to its flowering in later years and is important for reproduction as well. For a refresher on doing so, please visit: www.lockhaven.com/news/garden/2020/11/growing-tips-amaryllis-for-the-holidays/.

Home gardeners have three options for propagating amaryllis: from seed, through bulbs (sometimes referred to as offsets) and via cuttings. I often propagate amaryllis using bulbs because I don’t want the “little bulbs” to go to waste. This is a straightforward process and has allowed me to grow enough amaryllis bulbs to give as gifts to friends.

After danger of frost, I move potted amaryllis bulbs outside for the summer months. I bring them in just before the first frost, put them in my garage for about two months and let them dry. At the end of the dormancy period, I remove the dried foliage and inspect the potted bulbs before replanting them, usually into larger pots to accommodate the growth that has occurred over the summer. This is when I often find follicles growing from the sides of the parent follicles.

Photography by Debra Burrows The original bulb and bulbs were separated while the roots were preserved.

To begin repotting and propagating, I gently remove the entire root ball from the pot. If there are bulbs, I separate the bulbs and their roots from the parent bulb using my hands, taking care to avoid damaging the roots. By maintaining as many roots as possible, the bulbs will not need to use as much energy to grow new roots, and can instead direct that energy toward higher growth and flower production.

Once the bulbs and follicles are separated, I select new pots based on the size of the bulbs and follicles. The pot should have good drainage holes and should be about twice as long as the bulb and wide enough to allow about two inches from the sides of the bulb to the sides of the pot when the bulb is placed in the center of the pot. Amaryllis like to be somewhat confined to the pot, so it is important to allow some room for roots to grow, but not too much.

Because amaryllis grow tall, the pot must be heavy enough to support the top growth without tipping over. I use heavy crockery to avoid tipping. If using lightweight containers, such as plastic, the bottom of the pots can be filled with several inches of gravel to add stability, or the pot can be placed inside a heavy decorative container, as long as it is capable of draining. Good drainage is essential.

The bulb should be placed in the pot so that approximately one-third to one-half of the bulb is above the surface of the potting soil. Be careful not to plant the bulb too deeply. Start by placing small stones or a coffee filter over the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot to prevent soil from seeping out. Place a few inches of potting soil in the pot and press it down firmly. Then place the bulb in the pot, allowing the roots to spread under the bulb and hold the bulb at the appropriate height to ensure that at least a third of it remains above the surface. Fill the pot with soil and tamp it down gently, being careful not to damage the roots.

Once planted, new pots should be watered, allowed to drain well, then placed on a sunny windowsill or other bright location. Do not water again until about two inches of growth has sprung from the bulb. Allow the surface of the soil to dry between waterings, making sure the pot drains well and does not remain in a bowl of water for too long. While the repotted parent bulb is likely to produce flowers in the coming months, it may take a year or two for the bulbs to increase in size and bloom.

Photography by Debra Burrows Bulb and Duplicate Bulbs.

I’ve found bulbs to be an easy and inexpensive way to propagate amaryllis bulbs that brighten my house during the dreary winter months. Propagation by seeds and cuttings requires more effort. Those interested in learning about amaryllis propagation methods can find more information from the University of Florida at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP060.

In addition to the ease and cost savings, propagation from bulbs can be a more sustainable way to enjoy amaryllis in our homes each winter. Instead of treating them as annuals and buying new ones every year, we can produce our own products, thus conserving resources.

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Debra C. Burroughs, Ph.D., is a retired Penn State educator and certified master gardener. She can be reached at dcb3@psu.edu.



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