Amaryllis bulbs are usually available in the fall and are treated as houseplants. The amaryllis is a large plant, growing 46-60 cm (18-24 in.), with blooms 10-15 cm (4-6in.) wide. Colors range from pure white to salmon, pink, and red. Bulbs can be brought into bloom from late fall until early spring, blooming from 6-8 weeks after planting. Given proper treatment, they will continue to bloom for several years, usually in winter.
Potting – Purchase large, firm bulbs which show only the scars or stubs of old foliage, but no new leaves. Use a light, well-drained potting mixture containing some peat moss. The pot itself should have good drainage and be about 8-10 cm (3-4 in.) wider than the bulb. The potting mixture should be about 3 cm (1 in.) below the rim of the pot (for ease of watering), and about 1/3 of the bulb should show above the soil level. Firm the soil and water well.
Care – Place the pot with the amaryllis bulb in a sunny, warm room. Day temperatures should be 18-25C. Night temperatures can be 5-10 degrees cooler. Water sparingly until the first shoots appear. Once growth begins, water whenever the soil is dry – making sure it is evenly moist but not overly wet. Turning the pot every few days will keep the foliage growth balanced. Varieties with extra large blooms might need staking. Fertilize with a “complete” water-soluble houseplant fertilizer once a month while the plants is in active growth, remembering that it is better to under fertilize than to over fertilize. A complete fertilizer is one such as 20-20-20, which contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A good houseplant fertilizer should also contain trace elements (sometimes called “micro nutrients”) such as iron and magnesium. The current year’s bloom will be nourished by the bulb itself. But good nutrition will ensure large, healthy bulbs (and blooms) for future years.
Flowering – Once the flower buds are ready to open, the pot can be moved to a different location, one which is cooler and has less direct light. This will both prolong flowering and bring out the brilliant colors of the amaryllis. Remove the flowers as they fade. This prevents seed formation, which diverts food from the bulb itself.
Aftercare – When the blooming period is over, place the pot in a sunny, well-ventilated position. Water and feed regularly to promote vigorous foliage. Food manufactured in the leaves will enlarge and feed the bulb (which shrinks as a result of flowering). If properly cared for, amaryllis bulbs should increase 1-2 cm (.3-.7 in.) in size each year.
The life of an Amaryllis aka hippeastrum – I was impressed when I read that an Amaryllis bulb could bloom for up to 75 years! This is a gift that keeps on giving.
Designing with the Amaryllis
The design possibilities are endless! When they are used as a form or line flower, the results are stunning! As cut flowers, these blooms have a vase life of about two weeks.
Cut the stem once the first blooms start to open.
To arrange amaryllises into floral foam, follow these steps.
- Always place amaryllises into designs before any other flowers or foliage.
- Wrap the bases of the stems with waterproof tape to prevent splitting.
- Invert the flowers, and fill the hollow stems with bulb-flower-food solution.
- Insert two plant stakes so they extend beyond the stem ends.
- Plug the stem ends with cotton.
- Turn the flowers upright, and insert the stakes into the floral foam, bringing stem ends into contact with the wet floral foam and gently pressing them slightly into the foam.
History of the name, Amaryllis:
In Greek lore, the amaryllis flower is named for a shepherdess whose love for a shepherd is unrequited. Endeavoring to impress Alteo, Amaryllis walked the path to his door for one month, piercing her own heart each day with a golden arrow. The blood flowing from Amaryllis’ heart created beautiful flowers blooming in scarlet hues along the pathway.
“Hippeastrum” is said to derive from the Greek words hippos, for horse and astron, for star, because the blooms once were considered to resemble a horse’s head, at a certain stage in their opening, and because of the star-shaped form of the open flowers.