Saturday, February 13, 2010

How to care for an Amaryllis

These sensational trumpets herald Christmastime. They are usually sold in stores close to Christmas already potted and showing green. These natives of South Africa are quite easy to care for at this point.  

In order to have it bloom again next year, it has to grow out through the summer and then be given a cool rest period. Depending on where you live, and how early you can chill it down for at least 6-8 weeks, will determine when its going to bloom again. Since I live in the southern US, it doesn't really get cool enough for a rest until late September.
I've often left my Amaryllis (pictured here) to rest until late November and I usually have a Valentines Day plant!  You can certainly experiment with this. To coax your Amaryllis into blooming for Christmas, you should begin watering the bulb the first week of October. 
Your amaryllis will bloom year after year, with the following care.

Thanks to my friend, David Brooks, for his input with these instructions!

Full Care Instructions--  
  • Amaryllis require good bright light, preferably at least or an hour or two of direct sun.
  • Water thoroughly when the top of the soil feels dry. About 2 cups (about 1/4-1/2 liter) of water should work for a plant in a 6" (15cm) diameter pot. 
  • When newly bought and blooming, no fertilizer is necessary at this time. Enjoy them for a couple of weeks! 
  • After the blooms are gone, cut off the flower stalk close to the top of the bulb. Keep watering it when the top of the soil dries out. You can begin to fertilize it with regular plant food.
  • Your Amaryllis will continue to grow long, green, lush leaves through the summer. It does appreciate being placed outdoors for the summer in a shady spot, if possible.
  • At the end of the summer, you can start to water it a little less and stop fertilizing. Its leaves will start dying back, as they should. Its getting ready to rest. When the temperature starts getting down to about 45 degrees at night outdoors, bring them into the garage, a cool basement spot or put them in the refrigerator. 
  • Cut the leaves back about 1/2 inch above the bulb. If you have the space i.e.,in the garage, you don't have to do this until you bring them inside again.
  • As it rests, I recommend giving it couple of tablespoons of water every week or so to keep the bulb from drying out completely. 
  • I like to see them rest for 6- 8 weeks but longer is quite fine. You can bring your Amaryllis out of dormancy as late as mid-spring and it should be very happy to bloom for you. It takes about 10 weeks until it is in full bloom.
  • Once it's brought out of its resting place, give it a very thorough soak preferably in the sink, the first time you water it. This will get it off to a good start. You can fertilize it up until you see the bloom stalk rising up, then wait until it's done blooming. 

***For a variety of  video clips on houseplant care from my 90's TV series, click here: 

The Indoor Garden TV show


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