Have you bought an amaryllis bulb, had it bloom beautifully the first year, and then never see a bloom again? I have. I’ve learned it is the post-blooming care that makes the difference. Let’s start from the beginning.
Buying a bulb
Buy a large, firm bulb. By this I mean, buy the largest bulb you can afford. The larger the bulb, the more bloom stalks and blooms you will have. Amaryllis bulbs can be found almost anywhere at holiday time. Ones pre-packaged in boxes with the pot and soil included, usually aren’t the biggest or best bulbs. Purchase your amaryllis where they are loose in a box, usually at an independent garden center. By purchasing your bulb like this, there will be more varieties to choose from. Maybe even unusual ones. Buy appropriate soil. The bag of soil that comes in the pre-packaged ones is mostly peat, and is too heavy and holds too much water. Quite often the bulb will bloom in that soil but doesn’t grow after that. It may even get moldy and rot. Well-Drained soil is a must. Never waste your money on cheap soil! The soil in any plant makes ALL the difference! Secondly, check the bulb for any soft spots or mold.
Choosing a container
Okay, now for the pot. Amaryllis bulbs like to be snug in their pots. With that in mind, choose one that is only 1′ or so bigger than the bulb itself. It goes without saying, make sure there is a drainage hole in the pot.
Soak the roots
Next, soak the roots in water for a few hours before planting, not immersing the whole bulb, just the roots. This will give the bulb a head start, as they’ve been stored and are quite dry. Now, the bulb is ready to be planted. When potting it up, keep part of the bulb above the soil line, as in the picture above. Usually, 1/4-1/3 of the bulb is adequate.
Give it a bright spot
Water well once, and place in a bright, warm spot. Once the green flower stalk appears, water regularly when needed. The flower stalk will bend toward the light so turn it often to make sure it grows straight. In 6-8 weeks, there should be a fabulous display of flowers. If you start this process at the beginning of November, you will be enjoying flowers in time for the Christmas holiday. This makes a beautiful hostess gift, or the perfect gift for a gardener, or shut-in. I’ve given one to a friend in a nursing home, and they loved watching it grow and bloom.
Post bloom care
Now, for post-bloom care. When the last flower fades on the flower stalk, cut it off near the bulb top. You can just cut off the spent flowers, leaving the green stalk to photosynthesize until it withers. The leaves may already be growing and these will replenish the bulb’s energy for next year. By encouraging these leaves to be as healthy as possible, you are ensuring that it will flower the next year. Many people place them outside for the summer. This is fine, or you could just keep it in a nice sunny window. Make sure it is fertilized on a regular basis, at least once a month from March-August. On or near Labor Day, discontinue watering and let the foliage die down naturally, or just cut it off. I cut mine off. Now, keep it dry. Check it every so often to make sure the bulb isn’t shriveling. If it is, add a small amount of water. The bulb is resting.
Decide when you would like it to bloom again, and 6-8 weeks before that date, you can start watering again. If you want Christmas blooms, start the process over again in November. I also like to scrape an inch or so of the old soil off the top and replenish it with fresh soil.
I’ve found a little care is all that’s needed to have beautiful blooms on your amaryllis. As the years go by, your bulb will multiply. You can plant the “babies” up by themselves, or just keep potting the whole “family” up into a slightly bigger pot. In a few years, you will have a pot full of bulbs and blooms.