Growing Amaryllis for Christmas
Nothing says Christmas like the spectacular trumpet flowers of an amaryllis bulb. Amaryllis are tropical plants that are easily grown indoors.
Use the correct-size container
Amaryllis bulbs are large, but they like to grow in tight quarters. Plant your bulb in a pot that is not more than 1 inch wider than your bulb. You can go as small as ½ an inch wider than your bulb, but any smaller is not recommended. The bulb shouldn't touch the sides of the container. Amaryllis bulbs planted in large pots will not bloom. Don’t bury your bulb completely. Leave ⅓ of the bulb above the soil. You can use regular potting soil.
Stake your flower stalk
You should use a stake such as a bamboo stake to keep your flower stalk from falling over from the weight of the flowers. It’s best to place your stake before you completely fill the pot with soil so that you don’t damage the bulb later.
When you water your bulb, make sure that you are only watering the soil. Do not pour water directly on the bulb. This could cause it to rot. Amaryllis prefer dry conditions because they are originally from South Africa which is very dry. Water sparingly and avoid drenching the soil. That could also rot your bulb.
Initially, you should place your bulb in a cool spot with indirect light. Keep the soil moist, not wet. After a few weeks, you will see a stalk emerging from the bulb. This is your cue to move your bulb to a warm, sunny location. Leaves and a flower stalk will grow. The stalk grows towards the sunlight so be sure to give your pot a quarter turn every 2 to 3 days to keep the stalk from leaning to one side.
Recharge your bulb after blooming
Just like your outdoor spring bulbs, once your amaryllis flowers die, its bulb will need to rebuild its nutrient supply through its foliage. Leave the bulb in a sunny window and continue to water sparingly. You should feed it once a month with a liquid fertilizer to help it along. When all danger of frost has passed, you can bring the pot outside or even plant it in the ground.
Force your bulb to bloom at Christmas
Normally, after growing all summer amaryllis go into a period of dormancy and bloom again in late winter. If you want your amaryllis to bloom for Christmas you will have to force it to go into dormancy earlier.
Start withholding fertilizer in August. Then when you bring your plants indoors in September or October, place the pot in a cool, spot with indirect sunlight. To ensure blooms at Christmas or any specific date, count backwards from that date about 10 to 12 weeks and stop watering at that time.
The leaves will dry up and fall off indicating that your plant has entered a dormant state. It sounds cruel, but dormancy is necessary for the lifecycle of amaryllis bulbs. When a new flower stalk appears, you can move the bulb to a warm, sunny window and begin watering it again rotating the pot ¼ turn every 2 to 3 days to prevent the stalk from growing towards the sun.
Propagating your amaryllis
You will notice small bulblets growing around the base of your bulb. These are new bulbs forming. You can remove them from your bulb, pot them up and allow them to grow. Within 2 to 3 years, they will be large enough to bloom.
Growing amaryllis indoors is easier than you might think. With a little care (and a little cruelty), you can enjoy their spectacular trumpet flowers year after year.
© 2013 Caren White