Q. How do I care for my amaryllis plant?
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) needs bright light, with some direct sunlight, throughout the active growth period; without good light elongated leaves will result and no flowers the following year.
Normal warm room temperatures encourage fast growth and early bloom, but too much heat will shorten the life of the flowers.
Water newly potted bulbs sparingly--just enough to keep the potting mixture barely moist--until roots develop (as indicated by the appearance of healthy new growth). Thereafter, water more moderately, but let the top half of the mixture dries out between watering. When plants are in full growth, water the mixture enough to keep it moist. After the active growth period has ended, some growers continue watering (on a reduced scale) for quite a while, but it is probably best to stop in mid-fall, so that bulbs begin to get an enforced rest. After watering stops, the foliage will become yellow and wither away. If watering is continued too long, the past year's foliage will remain green and may become unwieldy and unattractive. Keep the potting mixture completely dry throughout the rest period, which lasts until new growth (usually the tip of the flower bud) begins to appear.
Feed a standard liquid fertilizer (1/4 strength) once every two weeks from the time the flowers have finished blooming until midsummer. Then switch to a high-potash fertilizer, such as is usually recommended for tomatoes. This will help to mature the bulb and ensure a flowering stalk the next year. Discontinue feedings entirely after mid-fall.
Amaryllis dislikes root disturbance and flowers best when left alone. For three or four years after the initial potting, simply take the bulb out of its pot with the tangled root ball intact, remove a little loose mixture from above and between the roots, replace the bulb in the same pot, and work some fresh mixture into the spaces made. Do this when the first signs of new growth appear, just at the beginning of the active growth period. Repot completely at three- or four-years old. Shake the bulb free of the old mixture and replant it in completely fresh potting mixture.
Use a rich soil-based potting mixture and put plenty of clay-pot fragments in the bottom of the pot to aid drainage. New bulbs should be set singly in 5- or 7-inch pots; half-bury the bulb, leaving its neck and shoulders clear of the potting mixture. Some growers believe that soaking the bases of the dry bulbs for 24 hours in shallow saucers of water assists initial growth.
FORCING AFTER DORMANCY
End the dormant period when you are ready to start the blooming period once more. Start the forcing process 6-8 weeks before you want blooming. Cut any dead tissue off the bulb's neck. Remove the top 1/2 inch of soil from the pot, replace with new soil. Do not remove the bulb from the pot. Water the potted bulb ONCE thoroughly, and place the pot in normal indoor temperature.
Follow the preceding schedule as if this were a newly-purchased bulb. The bulb should break dormancy and start new growth with the energy it stored during its summer period in leaf.
If a plant produces leaves, but no flower stem, in a given year, continue to tend the plant so the leaves will feed the bulb for next year's flower. Some bulbs may not have the strength to produce the flowers each year.
If a bulb shows no green growth from forcing, use your fingers to squeeze the potted bulb below the dirt surface. If the bulb is not firm, it may have rotted and needs to be discarded. Rotting also can indicate that a bulb received too much watering during its cycle.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service