Amaryllis are popular holiday gift plants, no doubt because of their large, showy flowers and easy care. Although many people throw them out after blooming, it is possible to bring your Amaryllis back into bloom every year.
To bring your Amaryllis into bloom again, you need to provide the same conditions that the plants experience in nature. Amaryllis are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas, growing in areas with a warm humid growing season and a short, dry and cooler resting season. You need to provide your Amaryllis with two seasons instead of four!
First, extend your enjoyment of the flowers by keeping your Amaryllis in a location with diffuse light and cool temperatures during this holiday season. Keep it barely moist, being careful not to wet the part of the bulb that is above the soil. After the flowers fade, cut the flower stalks near the top of the bulb being careful not to damage the leaves, then place the pot in a sunny window. Over the winter the leaves will make food to store in the bulb for next year’s flowers. If the pot does not have drainage holes, repot it into a pot that has them.
In the spring, when all risk of frost is past, move the bulb outdoors to a sunny spot on the deck or in a flower bed where you will remember to water it. Fertilize the bulb with dilute fertilizer when you plant it out and fertilize again monthly. Water when dry but do not overwater. The winter and summer have combined to provide a long, warm, humid season for your bulb, season one.
Your Amaryllis needs a short, dry, cool season before blooming again, season two. Decide when you want it to flower and count back 90 days. That date is the start of the dry season; for December holiday blooms the dry season should start in late August, for February blooms the dry season starts in late October.
At the chosen date, cut the leaves down to 3 to 4 cm and move the Amaryllis to a cool, dim spot in the basement or in the back of a closet. Stop watering and fertilizing and let the bulb sleep for ten weeks. At the end of the rest period, replace the soil, leaving at least 1/3 of the bulb above the soil. Water once and move to a bright, sunny area. Do not water again until you see new leaves emerging. Keep it warm, moist and in bright light until the first flower opens. Flower stalks will be long, weak and prone to falling over if the light is too dim.
Repeat indefinitely; if you provide the right conditions your Amaryllis will grow and multiply over the years and reward you with multiple flower stalks as it grows larger.
Judy Brisson, Guelph-Wellington County Master Gardeners
This post was first published in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of the Puslinch Pioneer.