Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > November 2017 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Amaryllis


In Greek mythology, there is a story of a shy maiden named Amaryllis who fell in love with a handsome shepherd named Alteo.  Alteo was an avid gardener and vowed to only love a woman who could bring him the most beautiful flower he’d ever seen.  After seeking advice from a high-priestess, Amaryllis would go by his house every night, and pierce her heart with a golden arrow.  The drops of blood left a beautiful flower behind.  The beauty of the flower and her diligence and sacrifice won Alteo’s heart.

So here are some interesting facts about this flower that won a shepherd’s heart. 

Amaryllis are tender perennials, living outdoors reliably in winter hardiness zones 9 and 10.  Here?  Well, I’ve know people who have had them make it over the winter outside—in a well-protected area with a heavy winter mulch.  Yes, I’ve done it—next to a brick foundation on the south side of the house with about 8 or 10 inches of pine needles on top.  They made it five years, but last winter’s 5 degree nights knocked them out.

We are Family…

The Amaryllis family—the Amaryllidaceae—are a wide and varied group including the wild Amaryllis (Amaryllis Belladonna), our Christmas amaryllis (reclassified as Hippeastrum), as well as Narcissus (yes, daffodils!), tiny little snowdrops, agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile), alliums (onions, garlic and ornamental onions), clivia, crinum (Cape Lilies) among others.

Most of these are bulbs, needing a dormant period at some time during the year.  For bulbs like daffodils and snowdrops, they get their dormancy during the summer.  For agapanthus and clivia, which those of us in temperate zones grow in containers, they get a semi-dormancy when we bring them inside for the winter, when we stop fertilizing and run them almost completely dry between waterings. 

‘Tis the Season…

Hippeastrum—Christmas amaryllis--are in now.  So here’s how to grow these dramatically beautiful giants.  Pot the bulb with the top third of the bulb exposed, in a pot about one to one and a half inches bigger around than the bulb.  Water it when you are ready for it to start growing.  It will take anywhere from six to about ten weeks, depending on the variety of amaryllis and the environment—bulbs in a cooler room will take longer.

Keeping a Giant…

To keep amaryllis from year to year is incredibly easy—I should know.  I keep and re-bloom 25 every year!  So here’s how I do it.  As soon as my amaryllis finish blooming, I cut the bloom stalk all the way back.  If the amaryllis has not yet begun to grow leaves, it will very soon.   At this point, I add a good slow-release fertilizer, like Osmocote—although you could use any all-purpose plant food—and keep the plant in a sunny spot.

The first week of May, I move them outside for the summer (remember to let them get accustomed to direct outdoor sun gradually so as to avoid sunburn.)  There after, I remember to add another dose of Osmocote when it’s time (or stay on top of fertilizing) and I let them grow all summer long.

In the fall, I bring them in, allow them to go COMPLETELY dry and cut the leaves off, and then place the bulb in the pot in an attic, basement or attached garage for 10 weeks.  After their ten week sleep, I repot any that need it, begin watering and wait to enjoy the show.

If you absolutely have to have them blooming during the holidays, put them into dormancy no later than the middle of August.  I absolutely DON’T want mine blooming during Christmas.  Between trying to keep four cats from destroying the Christmas tree, all the running around, and poinsettias all over the place, I barely have enough time to notice them.  I put mine to sleep mid-October—and bring them out the first of January.  That way, most of them bloom somewhere between late January or early February.  Because I’m so not a winter fan, I appreciate their dramatic beauty so much more then.

There are so many more choices than just big red ones, however.  There are beautiful double amaryllis and fun miniatures and colors from whites, red, pinks, stripes, greens (yes), even burgundy!  Come in today and pick out one (or two or three) that is sure to be a new favorite.
Posted: 11/7/2017 by Bonnie Pega | with 2 comment(s)
Filed under: amaryllis, Bonnies, Garden
If they were planted in the ground, just shake off the excess dirt. They'll grow new roots so I don't mess with them one way or the other. If they were in a pot, you can leave the bulb in the pot and dry it out.
11/14/2017 1:14:39 PM

Trying to save amaryllis bulbs from last year(1st time) they have luxuriant rootss. Should I prune them before storing in attic?
11/9/2017 1:11:39 PM

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