How to care for your amaryllis
Amaryllis is a popular holiday gift plant but may have the lucky recipient wondering about its proper care.
Amaryllis is a tender bulb that won’t survive outdoors even in the mildest of Indiana winters. But it can be grown indoors to provide a dramatic show of color during dreary winter months.
The showy flowers range from crimson, scarlet, rose, lavender, white or bi-colored combinations. Although each plant may produce only one cluster of 2-4 blooms, individual blossoms can reach up to 8 inches in diameter at their peak. The flowers are borne on a tall, stout stem about 2 feet tall.
Amaryllis is commonly sold as a potted plant in full bloom or as a bulb kit for growing your own. For plants already in bloom, the flowers will last longer if you keep the plant in a cool location around 65 degrees F. Warmer conditions may cause the flower stalks to become weak and require staking to support the weight of the blossoms.
If you received an amaryllis bulb kit, you just might have blooms in time for Valentine's Day! The bulbs will have been rested and pre-chilled by the greenhouse grower so that they will be ready to grow and bloom at home. Bulbs should be potted in containers that are only a little larger in diameter than the bulbs themselves. Be sure containers provide drainage so excess water can escape. Pour a layer of good-quality potting soil mix into the bottom of the container and place the bulb so that the pointed end is facing up. Water thoroughly to establish good bulb-to-soil contact. Then place in a sunny windowsill in a cool location, preferably 55-65 degrees F. The plants should bloom in 6-8 weeks.
After the flowers fade you can keep amaryllis as a houseplant to re-bloom next year. Cut the faded flower stalk off at its base, place near a sunny window, and water and fertilize as you would other houseplants. After all danger of frost is past in the spring, you can plunge the pot into the soil outdoors in an east- or west-facing location.
Late in summer as the leaves begin to yellow, gradually cut back on watering until the leaves fade completely and the soil is dry. At this time, the bulb should be dormant. Dig the pot out of the ground and bring it back indoors. Keep the bulb in its pot and store in a cool, dark location about 40-55 degrees F. Amaryllis do not require as much of a chilling period as do many other flowering bulbs, but they do require a period of cool, dry dormancy. After about two months of rest, water the soil and set the pot in a sunny window and resume normal care.