How to Grow Amaryllis Bulbs to Brighten Your Winter Home – Chicago Tribune
– Darius Underwood, North Chicago
Amaryllis hybrid (Hippestrum) is a readily available tender bulb that has large, showy flowers that can be easily grown indoors in a container. This bulb will not overwinter outside in the Chicago area.
Most amaryllis plants are Dutch or African hybrids selected for flower size, color, and ease of effect. The usual flowering season is from February to April, but you can also make it bloom early in the winter as well.
To start, choose a standard-sized flower pot so that the largest bulb is about 1 to 2 inches around the sides and at the bottom. These bulbs do not need a lot of space for their roots. Your container should have a hole in the bottom for drainage. Use a well-drained potting mix to plant the bulbs, then position the bulb so that the top third or so of the bulb protrudes out of the soil. The final level of the growing medium should be about 1/2 inch below the rim of the pot to facilitate watering.
Place the container in a location where the temperature remains above 60 degrees F and bright light, such as a south-facing window with plenty of sunlight. The warmer the temperature, with the ideal day and night temperature being 70 to 75 degrees, the faster the bulb will begin to grow. Providing bottom heat by placing the pot on a propagation mat may help stimulate growth, especially if you keep your indoor temperature cool.
Water the bulb well after planting, and only water when the top or so of the potting mix is dry to the touch. It is better to err on the side of watering less until the roots develop, because overwatering can cause the bulb to rot.
You’ll generally see growth begin within two to six weeks, and flowers develop within another six to eight weeks. Some types of amaryllis may take longer to germinate, but you will usually notice some leaf development in the first two weeks.
Applying a balanced fertilizer at 10 to 14 day intervals is beneficial after new growth emerges. Rotate the pot every two to three days to prevent the flower stems from leaning toward the light. Flower stems may need support to prevent them from tipping over.
Check the bulb to see if it is still firm if you don’t notice signs of growth after three weeks. As long as the bulb remains firm, give it more time to grow and be careful not to overwater it. If the bulb is soft and squishy, it’s probably not viable, so you’ll need to start over with a new amaryllis.
Another option you can try is a waxed amaryllis bulb, which contains all the water and energy the bulb needs to thrive without the need for a pot with a growing medium. These lamps have a wax coating and usually have a coiled wire base so they stand upright on a flat surface. Simply place the waxed amaryllis bulb in a bright place and wait for it to grow and flower. The first one took longer than I expected to start growing, so be sure to give it plenty of time to develop if you decide to try growing one.
For more tips on plants, contact the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Information Service at email@example.com. Tim Johnson is Senior Director of Horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden.