Grow amaryllis, a favorite holiday plant

Amaryllis are one of the most widely grown bulbs worldwide and come in a beautiful array of colors and flower types.

Large, colorful amaryllis blooms can brighten any room. What is sold as winter-blooming ‘amaryllis’ is actually present in the genus Hippestrum It is native to South and Central America. It is grown in South Africa, Israel and the Netherlands and is sold as a winter flowering bulb for growing indoors. True amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna) is native to South Africa and is typically grown outdoors in areas in zone 7 and warmer.

Over the years, single, double and miniature hybrids have appeared Hippestrum Developed. The typical range of flower colors includes white, red, pink, orange, salmon, pale chartreuse, two-tone and white with brush strokes of pink or red. Depending on the species used to create the hybrids, they may have rounded, pointed or spidery petals. They usually have 12-20 inch stems that produce four showy, trumpet-like flowers. The name amaryllis is commonly used instead of Hippestrum For these LEDs, they will be used for the rest of this article.

Amaryllis bulbs are widely available at this time of year, sold either as bare root bulbs or as sets that include the bulb, pot and potting medium. It is best to start between October and January. The boxes display huge, brightly colored flowers atop sturdy green stems, but there are a few steps required to achieve the perfect picture on the package.

Michigan State University Extension recommends keeping bulbs stored in a cool place, around 50 degrees F, before planting. For bare-root bulbs, use a soilless potting medium such as a mixture of peat and perlite that drains well. Make sure the potting medium is moist when using it otherwise it may repel water. Plant each bulb in a pot leaving about 1 inch in diameter between the side of the pot and the bulb. For larger bulbs, this is usually a 6 to 7 inch pot.

Fill the pot about halfway with the slightly packed potting mix, then place the bulb face up in the pot, continuing to fill and firm the potting mix around the bulb until it is about a third of the bulb above the potting mix. The final level of the mix should be about 0.5 inch below the rim of the pot to allow for watering. Water lightly with lukewarm water to settle the potting mix around the bulb. To prevent rot, avoid watering the bulb upside down. Do not water again until green growth begins to appear. After that, water them about once a week or when the top of the potting medium dries out.

It may take two to eight weeks for growth to begin and about eight to 12 weeks from the time the bulbs are potted for them to begin flowering. Place the pot in a bright, sunny location such as a south-facing window or a sunroom with a room temperature of 70-75 F. Plants that receive insufficient light or heat during this growth period may have a pale color. Colors and leaves are longer. Once the plants are in flower, keeping them in a slightly cooler area of ​​about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and out of direct sunlight will help extend the life of the flowers. Turn the pot frequently to prevent the flower stems from leaning toward the light. Stakes can be used to prevent flower stems from tipping over.

Some people throw away amaryllis bulbs after they bloom rather than try to keep them to bloom again for another year, but it is possible. After the last bloom has finished, cut the flower stem back a few inches above the bulb, but keep the leaves. Place the plant in a sunny window, preferably south-facing, water when the top of the potting mix is ​​dry to the touch, and begin fertilizing with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer such as 10-10-10 once a month.

In the spring, after all danger of frost has passed, place the pot outside in a sunny location, watering as needed to keep the plant evenly moist, and fertilizing every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer. In the fall after a light frost, bring the pot back indoors, cut the foliage just above the bulb, and store it dry in a cool place (55 degrees F), such as a basement, for eight to 10 weeks. The bulb needs two to three months of cool temperatures to bloom again. After that, it can be replanted and cultivated according to the instructions above.

For additional tips on how to replant amaryllis bulbs, and a photo gallery of different varieties, see “How to Make Your Amaryllis Bloom Again” from the U.S. National Arboretum.

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