The gift that keeps on giving: the gorgeous amaryllis | News, sports, jobs

The gift that keeps on giving: the gorgeous amaryllis |  News, sports, jobs

Q: Someone gave me an amaryllis plant as an early gift. How do I make sure he doesn’t die?

— Cathy from Salem

A: I love amaryllis bulbs and the exotic trumpet-shaped flowers they produce. I send them every year as gifts to my out of town family and friends. I’m calling them “The gift that keeps on giving” Because with a little care, they can be persuaded to bloom again within one year.

For the past 10 years, I have been sending potted amaryllis bulbs to my sister in Texas for a Christmas gift. Every spring, she replants the bulbs in her flower bed, and six weeks later, the gorgeous flowers bloom again.

Giant bulbs come in an endless array of sizes and colors and can be purchased at local garden stores and online nursery growers.

From your question, I’m guessing you might think that giving a live plant to some people is like showing up on Christmas Day with a puppy. The gift can be exciting until you have to feed it and take care of it. But don’t worry, amaryllis are a living, stress-free gift that can be received and given to others.

According to the University of Minnesota, these plants are native to Africa. Genus name – Amaryllis – means “to shine” In Greek. Europeans began to favor these lamps in the 18th century because of their brilliant colors and sizes. Bulbs can bloom for up to 75 years.

The bulbs we grow here in the United States are from a different genus, Hippia strum, which is native to the Americas in the tropics.

Some tips on growing:

• Amaryllis grow best in tight containers with good drainage. The bulbs should sit above the lip of the pot. When the stems begin to grow, move the plant out of direct, hot sunlight and into indirect light. This will enhance flowering.

• Avoid overwatering by watering when the top inch of soil is dry. You can use a half-strength soluble household plant fertilizer that has a high phosphorus content.

• For post-flowering care, deadhead the flower to conserve energy in the bulb rather than allowing it to produce seed. Move it back to a sunny location. Leave the rest of the stem until it turns yellow.

• Choosing the perfect amaryllis as a gift can be as much as purchasing amaryllis that are already placed in a decorative pot with one or more stems ready to grow and flower. Remember, the larger the bulb, the larger the flowers.

• Inspect the bulb before purchasing to ensure it is stable and healthy-looking, including avoiding any bulb that may have a moldy odor. If you can’t find a bulb that’s ready to be potted, you can make it a DIY project by selecting one or more bulbs and potting them yourself using new potting soil in a clean, sterilized container.

• Follow our growth tips and consider buying someone the perfect gift that’s guaranteed to keep on giving. You can even get another plant for yourself.

To learn how to care for the amaryllis you get this Christmas, go to

Novotny is one of the volunteer gardeners at Ohio State University in Mahone-Inge County. Call 330-533-5538 to submit questions to the Plant and Pest Clinic. During the off-season, questions can be asked at any time. More details can be found at

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