The ease of coaxing a potted amaryllis bulb into spectacular bloom makes it a satisfying winter project for gardeners and nongardeners alike. Turn one of these fist-sized bulbs into a gift by planting it in a decorative pot, adorned with sheet moss and a bow. Here are some growing tips for success with amaryllis:
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Tips For Planting And Growing Amaryllis
Garden centers and mail-order retailers sell dormant amaryllis bulbs in fall and early winter. The bigger the bulb, the more abundantly it will bloom. Bulbs that approach the size of a grapefruit are likely to produce multiple flower stalks, extending the blooming period over several weeks.
Choose a pot about 3 inches broader than the diameter of the bulb. Heavy ceramic or terra-cotta are good choices for lending stability to these top-heavy plants. Make sure the pot has a hole for drainage.
Related: 6 Indoor Blooming Plants To Brighten Your Home In Winter
1. To pot the bulb, put a few inches of moist potting soil in the bottom of the container. If the bulb has roots, fan them out over the soil.
2. Center the bulb in the pot with one hand while adding more potting soil, firming the soil around the roots as you go, to within ½ inch of the pot's rim. Leave the top one-third of the bulb exposed.
3. Water thoroughly to settle the soil around the bulb. Top the potting soil with sheet moss or Spanish moss, if you wish, and add a festive bow.
4. Put the pot in a warm, bright window. During the time it takes for the bulb to begin growth--usually within 2 or 3 weeks--water it just enough to keep the soil from drying out. Once the flower stalks emerge, rotate the pot frequently to encourage symmetry. Move the pot out of direct sunlight (and away from furnace vents) when the flowers open.
How To Keep It Blooming Year After Year
An amaryllis is a rewarding winter houseplant because, like paperwhite narcissus, it can go from dormant bulb to full bloom in a matter of weeks. But unlike paperwhites, which aren’t worth saving once they are done blooming, an amaryllis bulb is a long-term investment that will bloom every winter—if you know how to keep it happy.
It’s a common mistake to trim off the long, strappy leaves that emerge with the flower stalk. Those leaves are absolutely necessary; through photosynthesis, they capture the solar energy that goes toward next year’s flowers. After it’s done blooming, put the potted amaryllis in a sunny, warm window and water it regularly to encourage more leafy growth. Give it a bit of fish emulsion or other water-soluble fertilizer every other week. When the weather warms and nights remain consistently above 50°F, move the pot outdoors, letting the leaves acclimate to direct sunlight gradually. Continue feeding and watering to encourage lush growth; the leafier the better.
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Around Labor Day, stop watering and feeding your amaryllis and let the bulb go dormant. Some gardeners turn the pot on its side to make sure the soil dries thoroughly. Once the leaves have shriveled, move the pot indoors and keep it dry for at least 10 weeks, or whenever you’re ready to awaken the bulb and begin the flowering cycle again. Top the soil with a half-inch or so of compost or fresh potting mix, water well, and stand back!