Poinsettias may be the star of the holiday season, but many other seasonal plants can brighten the home, as well.
Amaryllis is a tender bulb ready to bloom when purchased. The genus name for this plant is Hippeastrum, which means “horse star,” an appropriate name for a plant producing massive blooms as large as 8 to 10 inches across.
These plants can produce three to four blooms on a 1- to 2-foot stem. Often, a second flower stalk follows the first at about the time the flowers on the first stem fade. The leaves typically appear when the flowers begin to open.
Amaryllis bulbs can be huge — approaching the size of a grapefruit. And the larger the bulb, the larger the flowers. But regardless of size, amaryllis likes tight quarters.
Place in a pot only 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than the bulb. About half of the bulb should remain exposed. Hold the bulb so the roots hang down into the pot, and add potting mix. Firm the mix around the roots carefully so they are not snapped off. Water thoroughly and place the plant in a warm, sunny location.
Bulbs can be purchased in a complete kit during the holiday season. Kits include the bulb, a pot and soil. Some kits have a vase and pebbles for the bulb to grow in water. With this type of bulb kit, consider the bulb depleted after it blooms and throw it away. Potted bulbs can be saved and re-bloomed with a little extra care.
Amaryllis likes day temperatures in the 70s and night temperatures in the 60s. The flower bud may start to appear right away, or the plant may remain dormant for a period of time, but eventually all mature bulbs bloom. To help the flowers last as long as possible, move the plant to a cooler location and out of direct sunlight when the buds begin to show color.
Flowers should be cut off after blooming to keep the plant from expending energy forming seeds. Place the plant in a sunny location until it is warm enough to be placed outside. Sink the pot in an area of soil with dappled shade. The plant can gradually be moved to sunnier locations until it receives full sun for a half day. Continue to fertilize with a balanced houseplant fertilizer as you would a regular houseplant.
Amaryllis can often be left in the same pot for several years but will eventually need repotting. Select a pot that is only 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than the bulb and repeat the process described above. Offsets or new bulbs produced by amaryllis can be given their own pots.
Amaryllis must go through a resting or dormant period before they will re-bloom. Bring the pot in before the first frost and place in a dark location. Withhold all water so the leaves have a chance to dry completely. Leaves can then be cut off close to the top of the bulb.
Most varieties will require about eight weeks of dormancy. After that time they can be brought back into the light and the blooming process can begin again.
Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.