Caring for amaryllis

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By Dennis Morgeson

Amaryllis hippeastrum are sold near the holidays because of their ability to flower any time of year.  

It is a tender bulb that originates from South America.  Its cousin, the belladonna lily — or as we affectionately call it in Kentucky, “Naked Ladies,” or a nicer version, “Resurrection Lily” — is also an amaryllis, which is native to South Africa.  

Obviously, the version we grow called “Naked Ladies” is hardy, but sadly, the larger-flowered amaryllis is not.   

For the sake of this article, an amaryllis is the large-flowered, non-hardy bulb type.  

We will have a discussion on “Naked Ladies” (I really need to start calling these plants something else) at a later date.

Amaryllis performs best at temperatures in the 70s and needs this warm growth period to promote vegetative and floral growth.  

This growth period must be followed by a dormant period to promote flowering.

When you buy an amaryllis bulb, it has received its proper dormant period and is ready to be potted.  

Plant your amaryllis in any well-draining potting soil with a pH of 6-6.5.  

Make sure that your potting soil doesn’t contain pine bark because this may cause rot and pH problems.  

Choose any pot for your amaryllis, but make sure it has drainage holes.  The biggest problem with amaryllis is rot, and a perpetually wet soil will cause problems.  

When you plant your bulb, make sure one-third of the bulb is sticking above the soil line.  

This will help keep the chances of rot down.

After potting an amaryllis bulb, water it thoroughly.  Keep the medium moist but not wet; generally watering once a week is plenty.  

Also, don’t water over the nose of the bulb. Water can get in the stem and cause a fungal problem.

Grow amaryllis in a warm, sunny window until it begins to flower, then move it to the coolest area in your home to extend the life of the blooms.

Amaryllis is a heavy feeder and requires a good amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  

A slow release formula, such as Osmocote, works really well, or fertilize twice per month with any water-soluble fertilizer.  

As the flowers fade, remove them.

When all the flowers are gone, you can cut the flower stalk off just above the nose of the bulb.

The great thing about an amaryllis is that you can enjoy its flowers year after year.  

After an amaryllis finishes flowering, place it again in a warm, sunny windowsill.  You can also put it outside in a partly shady area during summer.  

An amaryllis needs at least nine-to-10 months of growing time before entering its dormancy period.

It will generally grow until August or September after a Christmas flowering. You should then gradually stop watering it and allow it to go dormant.  

Keep it in a cool, dry place, and don’t water it.  

Amaryllis needs eight-to-10 weeks of dormancy to set bud to flower again.  

After the required dormancy period, water the amaryllis and begin the cycle again.  

If you have any horticulture questions, give me a call at 859-336-7741 or like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Washington-County-ticulture/140659449317295.  

Happy Thanksgiving!