A little spring in the winter – how to grow an amaryllis

Are you tired of cold, gloomy days? Do you long for the vivid colors of the spring? The solution is simple: take a flower bulb, and force it to grow! It is a wonderful experience to watch an insignificant bulb grow into a magnificent plant – the sight delights the eye and the soul.

Source: Flickr.com

Source: Flickr.com

What kind of plant to choose

It is important to know that not all plants are suitable for forced growing. However, most of the bulbous and tuberous plants are suitable for this purpose, such as tulips and daffodils of some kind, as well as hyacinth and amaryllis. Out of these, amaryllis is probably the most popular – no wonder, since it can grow to a 60-80 cm height, and may grow 3-5 huge funnel-shaped flowers if treated properly.

What you need to know about the amaryllis

The amaryllis is a bulbous plant that belongs to the lily family. It has long, narrow leaves and funnel-shaped flowers. The flowers are large, and their color varies from white to a dark burgundy in all possible shades, some boasting interesting stripy and spotted patterns as well.

There is some misconception regarding the name of the plant. Among the many amaryllis, only one kind bears the name ‘amaryllis in the botanical taxonomy, the South African Amaryllis belladonna. The other varieties are classified in the genus Hippeastrum, and the common name is only used by gardeners and botanists. The genus comes from South America, so it is a heat-loving plant; we need to take this property into consideration when growing amaryllis.

What is a healthy amaryllis bulb like?

Size-wise the bigger they are, the better. Tiny bulbs have a very low probability to blossom even within a year of purchase. And of course, larger flower bulbs will grow larger flowers. The ideal diameter of the bulbs is 10-12 cm; besides, they should be hard, without any soft spots, and they shouldn’t be very dry. A mature amaryllis bulb is medium brown, sphere-shaped, and its upper covering leaves are dry and sometimes cracked.

If you buy pre-packaged bulbs, open the package immediately after you get home; otherwise, the bulbs will rot and decay fast.

To grow amaryllis plants, it is necessary to buy bulbs that have already undergone a winter dormant period and are ready to grow.

Important: keep amaryllis bulbs out of reach of small children and pets, because the whole plant is highly poisonous!

Source: Flickr.com

Source: Flickr.com

How to start?

If you’ve got the perfect bulb, you can start growing the plant! You may start at any time from mid-December until the end of February. The trick of growing an amaryllis is that the bulb actually has to be deceived: you need to imitate a short winter so the bulb receives a cold spell necessary for its development, and then provide light and heat to induce an early flowering.

First, you need a proper pot, which is about twice the size of the bulb. On the one hand, you need to make room for the roots; on the other hand, you need to make sure that later, when the leaves and the heavy flowers emerge, the pot won’t tip over. It is important, however, that the pot is not too high, because in this case the roots will grow to fill the larger space, and the flowers will be smaller.

Place the bulb into the pot so that the upper third part of the bulb is sticking out. From the planting, about 8 weeks will pass until the first flowers appear. Water thoroughly, and then place the pot in a dark and warm spot of about 25°C – for example, near a radiator, and cover the pot with a brown paper bag. You mustn’t water again until the leaves or the stem appears which will occur in 15-20 days. It is very important to cover the pot, because if not kept in darkness, the bulb will not start developing, or, in the best case, it will grow only leaves and no flowers.

Start watering moderately (2-3 very small doses a day) from the time the first leaves or flower buds appear.

Source: Flickr.com

Source: Flickr.com

Blooming time

When you’re all done, you can expect the plant to start blossoming within 8 weeks after planting. The flowers bloom from 10 to 14 days, but it is possible to extend the flowering time by ensuring a slightly cooler temperature at night of about 18-20 ° C.

Unfortunately, like all plants, the amaryllis will stop blooming after a while. The withered and dried flowers need to be cut off from the plant. This way the plant will not have seeds, which would deter the development of the bulb. From the time it stops blooming, gradually lower the amount of water you give to the plant, and stop watering it entirely as soon as the flowers wither. Don’t cut off the leaves until they, too, wither, as the green leaves help the development of next year’s flower germs the bulb.

What to do when blooming is over

When you have removed the leaves, and only the bulb is left, all you need to do is to wait until the soil is completely dry. Then take out the bulb from the pot and place it in a cool, dark place of about 10°C. Don’t touch it for two months. After the two-month period you may start the whole process all over again.

Tips

  • If you wish to enjoy the beauty of the amaryllis all winter, start a new bulb every week or at least every two weeks.
  • If the outer, paper-like covering leaves are not loose, soak the bulb in water for several hours before planting it.
  • The bulbs will grow faster if you add plant food to the water every second time.

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