Grow a Potted Amaryllis for Added Winter Beauty

Claire Splan

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Potted amaryllis bulbs in full bloom are one of the loveliest sights of winter, with their big, bold flowers on strong, upright stems. The explosion of color in shades of deep red, bright pink, salmon, white, or even green can really brighten a frosty cold day. You may have received or purchased an amaryllis bulb during the holidays, so if you're ready to see some of those gorgeous blossoms in your home, it’s time to get them planted.

Planting amaryllis

Amaryllis bulbs like to feel cozy in their containers so choose pots that will leave no more than an inch of space surrounding the bulb. Make sure the container has a drainage hole because letting the bulb sit in waterlogged soil is likely to cause the bulb to rot.

Use a good-quality potting mix and lighten it with one part perlite to two parts potting mix. Plant the bulb with the top third above the soil line, then water well and place it in a cool location. For continuous blooms over a longer period, plant multiple containers every 2 weeks.

Keeping it happy

It’s best to not rush the forcing process, so don’t move the container again until leaf shoots or a flower stalk begins to show. When that happens, move it to a warm and bright location. Keep turning the container so that the flower stalk grows straight.

Keep the bulb watered throughout the growing period but don’t overwater to the point that it is sitting in soggy soil. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks through the bloom period. Flowers should open 7 to 10 weeks after planting.

Coaxing amaryllis into reblooming

If you forced your amaryllis into bloom, enjoy! The flowers will typically last for around three weeks. When the flowers fade, remove the flower stalk but keep the foliage intact. It needs lots of bright light now in order to feed the bulb to form the next flower, so move it somewhere where it will get as much light as possible. If your area is out of danger of frost, you can place the potted bulb outdoors in partial to full sun. Keep up regular watering through the summer.

Amaryllis bulbs will begin to go dormant in late summer/early fall. Help them along by withholding water and moving them where rainfall won't hit them. Remove all foliage after it has died back.

Around October, move the bulbs (still in their pots) to an area out of direct sunlight that is protected from freezing temperatures. Allow the bulbs to rest there for 6 to 8 weeks.

After the bulbs have enjoyed a long nap, you can repot them with fresh soil and start the process all over again.

About those bulbs in wax...

In the past couple years, some garden retailers have begun to sell amaryllis bulbs coated in wax. These curiosities, like the naked bulbs you plant, will grace your home with stunning, colorful blooms and require absolutely no care at all--no planting, no watering, nothing! The catch is that they are only good for one season of bloom. When the bloom fades, you can clip the entire stem and leaves and add them to the compost bin and toss the wax-covered bulb in the trash. Easy-peasy!

#nbholidaycheer

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Writer/editor. Author of "California Fruit & Vegetable Gardening" and "California Month-by-Month Gardening."

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