Amaryllis

Amaryllis in a pot. (Photo: Shutterstock)

 

Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Are you the proud owner of a huge, weird looking bulb that a loved one insists will one day become a big, beautiful flower?  If you’ve been given an amaryllis, remain calm; they’re easy to grow. With a little water, they have all they need to thrive tucked right inside the bulb.

With a pot, some soil, and a place to grow, Amaryllis sport huge blossoms as the doldrums of winter creep around. Start them now and they’ll be ready to bloom in eight to ten weeks.

Dutch (Hippeastrum spp.) are the large, trumpet-shaped flowers that seem to scream “LOOK AT ME” to anyone in the room. Big and bodacious, these tried and true beauties are ideal for beginners and for those who want to try keeping the bulb going year after year.

Look for bestseller Apple Blossom, a delicate china-white blushed with pink, red and white Barbados, or Red Lion in deep, rich, carmine. Cherry nymph is a delightful double flowered red amaryllis, While Peach Melba and Naranja are perfect for décor that leans toward orange tones

Miniature Amaryllis come in smaller bulbs, but produce more blooms. They typically cost more, but if you have a gardener who’s hard to please, the Cybisters (Hippeastrum cybister) have a wispy look with slender, delicate petals and long pollen-holding sepals.

Amaryllis bulbs come loose or in kits with a small pot and a little soil.  When shopping, avoid bulbs with half-grown sprouts; those trying to fight their way out of the box have lost their quality.  Larger bulbs have more flower stalks, and bulb suppliers are required to list bulb size on the label. Bulbs under 10- one-quarter inches usually produce only one stalk.

If you’ve been given one as a gift, here’s how to grow it:

Soak the roots in lukewarm water for an hour. Select a pot two to three inches wider than the bulb. Fill halfway with potting soil, place the bulb in the center and add a little more soil around the bulb. Plant them so that the top half of the bulb is left above the soil.

Water once and wait for sprouting to begin before watering again, unless the soil completely dries out.  During growth, keep the soil evenly moist by dampening the soil – take care not to pour water onto the bulb itself.

Once the bulbs sprouts, place it in a cool room in bright, indirect light, and hold off on fertilizing. Tie floppy stalks to thin supports slid into the soil next to the bulb to keep them from toppling.

Choose a warmer day for gift giving, since you don’t want the flower to go into shock. Protect them in a gift bag that is tall enough to close over the top of the flowers, then go from your house to their new home as quickly as possible.

Once the bloom has faded, trim off the spent flower stalk but allow the leaves to remain. Put the plant in a sunny window and water whenever the top two inches feel dry. Don’t allow the bulb to sit in water; drain off excess that flows from the bottom of the pot. Fertilize it every two to three weeks with low strength plant food.

To encourage it to rebloom, gradually reduce the amount of water in late summer over three weeks, and then stop watering. When the leaves brown and dry back, clip them off. Place the amaryllis container in a dry and dark location that maintains 50 to 60 degrees F temperatures for eight to 10 weeks.

Move the pot back to a sunny windowsill in November and begin to water regularly again to stimulate new growth and blooming.

By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension. CSU Extension together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.