January Flower of the Month
The Amaryllis originated in South America’s tropical regions. The large flowers and ease with which they can be brought to bloom make the amaryllis popular and in demand world-wide. The amaryllis comes in many beautiful varieties including various shades of red, white, pink, salmon, and orange. There are also many striped varieties and multicolored varieties, usually combining shades of pink or red.
The planting period is October until the end of April. The base and roots of the bulb should be placed in lukewarm water for a few hours. If you can’t plant the bulbs immediately after receiving them, store them at a cool temperature between 40-50 degrees F. Plant bulbs in a nutritious potting compost. Many are available pre-mixed. Plant the bulb leaving the top 1/3 exposed being careful not to damage its roots. Press the soil down firmly to set the bulb securely in place after planting. Choose a pot about half again as wide as the bulb. Bulb prefers to be pot bound with no more than two inches from the bulb to side of pot. Place potted bulb in a warm place with direct light since heat is necessary for the development of the stems. The ideal temperature is 68-70 degrees F. Water sparingly until the stem appears, then as the bud and leaves appear, gradually water more. Overwatering at the beginning of amaryllis growth is the main reason for failure. At this point, the stem will grow rapidly and flowers will develop after it has reached full growth. Bulbs will flower in 7-10 weeks as a general rule. Flowering time will be longer in the winter than in the spring. To prolong bloom keep the pot out of direct sunlight. After the flowers have faded, cut the flower stalk to within 1” of the top of the bulb. Continue to water and feed the plant regularly with a liquid houseplant fertilizer such as 4-10-7. Amaryllis will grow a number of leaves during the spring and summer and this will help the plant produce energy for the following year’s bloom. In mid-August begin withholding water and let the foliage die back naturally as the pot dries out completely. Store in a cool, dimly lit and dry place for 6-8 weeks. Don’t water the bulb. When you want the amaryllis to bloom again, water once thoroughly and place the pot in normal indoor temperature.
When planting your bulb it is a good idea to have enough room inside the pot so that a support stick can be placed down through the dirt to support the stem at a later time. When blooms open, the stem will become top heavy and could bend and break. Be careful that you don’t damage the bulb when inserting the support.
According to Fun Facts at Gardener’s Supply Company: Amaryllis means sparkle in Greek. Hippeastrum is derived from the Greek words for horse and star. In nature amaryllis blooms in spring or summer, but are commonly forced into early bloom for the holidays. Plant breeders have developed more than 600 named varieties. Properly cared for, an amaryllis plant can live for 75 years. The genus Hippeastrum has yielded several substances with medically useful properties, one of which has shown promise as a treatment for Alzheimers disease.
Here is an informative website with everything you need to know when growing amaryllis http://www.rochestergardening.com/bulbs