How to plant, forcing bulbs and care tips

How to plant, forcing bulbs and care tips

Amaryllis is the The festive flower of the day, as synonymous with midwinter as pines and poinsettias.

Amaryllis is perfect for adding a sophisticated touch of Christmas to any room. Place a few cut stems in a tall vase or a single large carved bulb with budding blooms to decorate a table or mantel.

The most common amaryllis colors are the traditional dark velvety reds, but I love the lighter winter colors for their gorgeous elegance. With bloom times from late December through spring, the flowers are guaranteed to add a touch of magic and hope to those deep mid-winter days.

Cut flower stems are expensive, but amaryllis are easy to grow indoors. It's a great winter planting project and the huge bulbs are quite stunning in their own right.

With a little advance planning, you can have your amaryllis blooming in time for Christmas, but if planting bulbs somehow slips early, an amaryllis bulb also makes a wonderful, sustainable Christmas gift, and holds the promise of gorgeous blooms to come.

Force LEDs

It's impossible not to be in awe of the exotic, unseasonal blooms of forced bulbs this time of year. The scarcity of winter flowers makes the process of bringing bulbs into early bloom all the more magical. By nurturing them indoors, it is a great opportunity to admire their appearance in close quarters.

Forcing bulbs means convincing flowers to bloom early or out of season. Most spring bulbs need a period of coolness to begin the flowering process. For daffodils and lilies, this involves tricking the bulbs into thinking it's winter, a process technically known as vernalisation. In layman's terms, it's about mimicking what bulbs would feel like if planted outdoors. When pots are brought indoors, the increase in temperature accelerates growth and the bulbs begin to produce flowers.

However, amaryllis is a celebration of warmth and comfort indoors. As a tropical bulb originating from Brazil, they are tender plants and need warmth, not cold, in order to flower. It requires pampering in our winter with a temperature of at least 10-15°C to start the growth process.

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How to grow amaryllis

Huge amaryllis bulbs, often the size of grapefruit, may seem daunting, but they're very easy to grow – it's really as simple as finding the right pot.

You may see bulbs for sale ready-planted and covered with a layer of compost. It's a simple transplanting job to move this into a container of your choice – simply scoop out the compost and remove the roots.

Amaryllis do not need large containers, they prefer more compact ones. For aesthetics, you can place moss or other forage materials. It's also a good idea to add a few willow or birch branches around the bulb to create a natural support cage for the tall stems.

Although this is the most traditional option, you can go for a simple, bare-bones approach by planting amaryllis bulbs in a glass vase to display the bulb and the flower as well. Simply take your single bulb and place it in a vase or clear glass container, then place it on a thin layer of pebbles or pea board. Water sparingly and enjoy the sight of the fleshy roots spreading and the buds appearing. Tall, tall glass containers will also help support the hollow stems of flowers that may be prone to tipping over.

Some vendors offer bulbs coated in colored wax for a different look. These bulbs tend to be a little smaller and do not require watering, preparation or planting. They work well in a trio, for example, as table decor.

Amaryllis 'Royal Red'

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Red amaryllis bouquet
Red amaryllis bouquet signs
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Red amaryllis bouquet
Red amaryllis bouquet

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How to care for amaryllis

The secret to successfully growing amaryllis is minimal watering. Especially if you are planting the bulbs in a container that does not have drainage. Once the roots are active, the bulbs will take between six and eight weeks to flower. When the shoots are about 10cm long, move them to a warmer part of the house to encourage flowering.

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What should I do after amaryllis finish blooming?

When the flowers wilt, it may be tempting to treat your bulb as an annual and simply throw it on the compost pile. But the sustainable approach is to preserve them and continue to nurture them until the expensive amaryllis bulb blooms next year.

The first step is to cut the flowering stem before the seed pod forms, allowing the plant to return its energy to the bulb. Leave the leaves to continue their work of photosynthesis. If you are growing in a glass container, at this point you can place the bulb in compost and leave it in a quiet corner. Allow the compost to dry between watering.

You can move the pots outside during the warmer summer months, continuing with a weekly watering and feeding regime to keep the foliage growing. By August, it's time to stop watering, let the foliage die back and leave the bulb for a period of dormancy, before bringing it back indoors in October. At this time, resume watering, but in moderation, and new flower buds should form.

Amaryllis, queen of dancing
Amaryllis, queen of dancing
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Amaryllis Desire
Amaryllis Desire
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Which amaryllis to choose?

An amaryllis bulb makes a great gift – it's exciting to watch the buds appear and don't underestimate the everlasting dazzle of the blooms as they fade.

The botanical name of amaryllis is hippeastrum. There are so many different varieties that new hybrids are being introduced all the time – with names like 'Dynasty', 'Minerva' and 'Temptation', they have no trouble living up to their cheerful reputation.

The typical trumpet-like flowers usually appear in clusters of three or four atop a hollow, circular stem in colors ranging from white to pink, red and orange. There are double and single varieties, and the Cybister varieties have spidery and more open flowers. They range in height from about 45-75cm, so you'll definitely find one that will fit into an existing container or vase or suit a specific place in your home, whether it's a side table or a centerpiece.

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10 of the best amaryllis

Rich red

1. 'Magnum' – These flowers are velvety ruby ​​in color and texture, perfect for complementing Christmas decorations.

2. 'Black Pearl' – Delicious dark chestnut with a velvety texture, large flowers form atop a very tall stem.

3. 'Benfica' – Bright, columnar single red flowers guarantee to cheer up winter days.

4. 'Hercules' – a shade of crimson pink, really bold and loud.

    Pale white

    5. 'Apple Blossom' – delicate white flowers with a pale pink tint, very reminiscent of spring flowers.

    6. 'Matterhorn' – Pure white, with a slight flush of lime green in the center of the single flowers.

    7. 'Marilyn' – Snow-white double flowers with a delicate touch of light green in the center.

      Two tones

      8. 'La Paz' – An organism with vibrant spider-like petals and greenish-red and white petals.

      9. 'Charisma' – White and red flowers with textures that vary slightly with each bloom.

      10. 'Dancing Queen' – A loud and flirtatious duet, with red and white Ra Ra stripes, the flowers are sure to bring brightness and cheer.

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        Camilla Phelps head shot

        Camilla Phelps is a freelance writer, gardener and horticulturist living in West Sussex. Coming from an artistic and musical background, she discovered gardening as a second career, retraining in garden design and gardening at Capel Manor College, London. She continued to work on BBC gardening programs and websites, alongside designing large and small gardens in and around London. Since becoming a mother of twins, she has focused on writing and developing community gardening projects for health and wellbeing.

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