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Gardening Tips: Amaryllis Care and Planting Guide

A favorite gift plant during the holidays, the amaryllis is an easy-care bulb that will grow indoors without forcing. The bulbs are huge and the larger they are, the better the bloom. The bulbs can be carried over each year and will produce more and bigger flowers each year. They will also produce offsets from the bulb that can be removed and planted to produce more bulbs. The flowers come in red, white, orange, pink, striped, and blushed.

Amaryllis like to be crowded for flowering. Pot the bulb in a deep pot that is two inches larger in diameter than the bulb. The bulb should be approximately 1/2 out of the soil. The roots are fairly brittle, so care should be taken not to break them. Use a good, well-drained potting mix such as Pro-mix or Country Cottage and pack it firmly around the bulb. Water thoroughly and then allow to drain. To prevent root rot, do not water again until the bulb shows signs of growth.

Once growth has started, keep the soil evenly moist. The flower bud will usually emerge first, followed by the leaves around the time the flowers are opening. Feed the plant once a month. They need at least half a day of full sun in the house. Shading during the bloom period and cooler than normal temperatures will keep the flowers fresh a little longer.

The period immediately after the flowers fade is crucial. At this time, the bulbs are storing food for their next blooming season, so it is important for them to receive good care. Remove the flower stalk and faded flowers to prevent energy from being wasted on seed production. The plant needs a sunny window sill. Once the weather is warm, they can be moved into the garden, pot and all. Place them in a spot where they are protected from real strong sun. Continue feeding and maintain even moisture.

The amaryllis is not hardy outdoors and must be brought indoors before frost. In late summer or early fall, the leaves will yellow and begin to die back. When this occurs, stop watering and fertilizing. Allow the leaves to die back completely. Remove them and put the plant in a cool, dry place for at least a month. At the end of this rest period, water once and fertilize with either house plant fertilizer or bone meal sprinkled on top of the soil. This should trigger regrowth and new bloom.

Amaryllis are best left in the same pot for as long as possible. Offsets may be removed at any time and potted separately. They grow quickly and should bloom in two or three years.