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Gardener's Corner

 

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

AMARYLLIS (HIPPEASTRUM)The botanical name HIPPEASTRUM means horsestar, a reference to the massive size of its starry six pointed bloom. Usually, as the first flowers fade, the bulb sends up or has sent up a second gigantic flower stalk.  If the bulb is large enough, you may be fortunate enough to witness a third flower stalk which is extremely rare.  The larger the bulb, the larger the flowers they produce as well.

If the pot is too large, the leaves develop at the expense of the flowers. I use a standard pot about two inches/five centimeters larger in diameter than the bulb.  When potted, an Amaryllis bulb should be about half way out of the soil. Carefully firm the soil against the roots. Then, water the soil thoroughly and let drain.  Too much water in the early stages is apt to rot the roots, so don’t water it again until the bulb shows signs of growth.  There is no way to predict how long the plants will take to produce that first growth; they seem to have minds of their own.  I usually start in late October and pot up a few bulbs every week until December, which results in blooms from late December through February.

The first sign of growth is usually the flower bud itself; the foliage often doesn’t develop until the flowers open. Once this bud is visible, I put the plant on its normal routine: constantly moist soil, food once a month, half a day of sunshine with 60 degree nights and 70 degree days.  When the blossoms open, I shade them from the full glare of the sun and keep them a little cooler, this keeps the flowers fresher longer.

The plant continues to need attention after flowering. Keep them in their pots in a sunny location until its warm enough to place them outside. Limit the amount of sunlight to half a day to prevent leaf burn.  Keep watering and feeding as usual.

Early in the fall, the leaves begin to yellow, indicating that it’s time for a rest. Don’t feed or water them at all while resting and do not allow them to freeze.  Cut off the yellow leaves close to the top of the bulbs, and then give them at least a month to regain strength before starting them on their next blossoming period.  To trigger new growth, wash away an inch or two of surface soil then replenish with fresh new potting soil.

Amaryllis bulbs should be left in the same pot for as long as possible, but usually after three or four years, it’s time for relocation.

SPECIFICATIONS

Light: Bright light during active growth period.
Temperature: Cool (55-65°F/13-18°C) during early growth and flowering. Warmer (70-80°F/21-26°C) after flowers fade.
Fertilizer: Feed with a balanced all-purpose plant food once a month.
Water: Keep soil lightly moist during active growth.  Allow pots to gradually dry out in mid-late summer.
Longevity: Several years.
Propagation:  Vigorous varities may produce offset bulbs around the mother bulb.  Allow these to remain attached for two seasons before breaking them off and planting them in their own pot.  With regular feeding, the offsets grow quickly and may flower after a couple of years.

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