Amaryllis bulbs hit the shelves in late November and early December in time for forcing into bloom during the cold, dark days of winter. These exotic beauties are native to Mexico and South America and belong to the genus Hippeastrum. According to a report in the Daily News dated Dec. 11, there are approximately 90 species and over 600 cultivars of amaryllis available today.
These exotic flowers bloom from a large bulb and resemble other lilies, adding rich color and beauty to the home in the midst of winter. Because the bulbs have already been subjected to darkness and 8 to 10 weeks of cold temperatures, they are typically ready for forcing when purchased at Christmas time.
Tips for Forcing Amaryllis Bulbs
- Choose a plant pot that is one inch wider than the width of the bulb.
- Fill the pot one half to three fourth full peat moss or other soilless potting mixture.
- Position the amaryllis bulb into the soil so that the top half of the bulb remains above the soil.
- Water thoroughly until water runs freely through the bottom of the container.Water again when the soil dries to the touch.
- Place the amaryllis bulb in a sunny location.
- Fertilize with water-soluble fertilizer when new growth appears and repeat every two weeks.
- Move the plant out of direct sunlight when the blooms begin to open to prolong the life of the blooms. Amaryllis blooms in approximately 12 weeks.
- To save your amaryllis bulbs after blooming, move the plant to a sunny location and water it whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Move the plant outside to a partially shady area in the summer. You may be rewarded with a second flush of blooms by midsummer.
- Cut the foliage back in the fall when you bring the amaryllis inside. Place in a cool dark area where temperatures remain at 50 to 55 degrees for 8 to 10 weeks. Water lightly to prevent the bulb from shriveling, but withhold regular watering.
Warning: Amaryllis bulbs will not rebloom if you cut the foliage back after blooming. The bulb needs the leaves to make and store food for next season’s blooms.
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