On those cold winter days when the trees are bare, and everything has gone to sleep for the winter, bring blooming plants into your home. Amaryllis are a great choice. They’re large bulbs that you pot, and in four to six weeks you’ll have a beautiful blooming plant.
They come in a variety of colors, including pink, red and white. There are also variegated ones. You can buy bulbs from garden and discount centers, garden catalogs and online.
Some bulbs come with a kit that includes a container and potting soil, which makes a nice gift.
You can also buy just the bulbs, which come in various sizes. Bigger is better, because bigger bulbs often send off two flower shoots.
To plant, you’ll need the bulb and a container with drainage in the bottom. I like a clay pot because it’s a little heavier and makes a good counterbalance from the weight of the tall stem.
When you choose your pot, get one that is just slightly larger than the bulb. About one-half inch or so on either side of the bulb is good. This is important because amaryllis bulbs don’t like to be too wet. A lot of soil mass will stay wet and cause root damage to the bulb.
Place soil in the container. We’re going to keep this bulb pretty high in the pot. As usual, the root goes down, and the shoot points up. We’ll have about one-third to one-half of the bulb exposed. Pack the dirt in to eliminate air pockets.
Then give it water. Make sure that the soil is thoroughly saturated. Wait until the shoot starts to grow before you water it again.
Place the pot in a nice, sunny area and wait for the shoot to come up. Turn the pot periodically so that the stem stays straight. In four to six weeks, you should have a great stock of wonderful amaryllis flowers. If you keep them in a cooler area, they’ll last longer.
After they are through flowering, cut off the flower stalk. Keep the plant inside and continue to water it until all danger of frost is past. Then you can take it outside for the summer. When it’s outside, you can fertilize it and water it as you do your other plants.
In September, cut off the leaves and bring it inside. Let the bulb rest or go dormant. Don’t water after that. Let it dry out. You can either let it stay in the pot, or you can take it out of the pot and let it dry out on a counter or a shelf. Then, in six to eight weeks, you can re-pot the plant and start the process again.
Evelyn Neier is a youth gardening specialist with Kansas State University Research and Extension, 4-H Youth Development. To watch an instructional video of Neier planting an amaryllis bulb, go to kcgardens.kansascity.com. This story was excerpted from Neier’s video and edited for length.