For a riot of bright colour to cheer you up in the depths of winter, it’s hard to beat an amaryllis. This South American native is a wonderful houseplant and, with careful timing, it makes a lovely Christmas gift too. Here’s everything you need to know about growing amaryllis bulbs and some top tips to get yours to flower again for a second year.
Instantly recognisable by its huge bulb, tall succulent stems and huge, trumpet-like blooms, amaryllis is a real show stopper. In the Americas, it grows outside, but here in the UK, it’s usually grown as a house plant. Some varieties, like ‘Dancing Queen’ can be started off on windowsills and conservatories and then moved outside to a sheltered patio once all risk of frost has passed.
How to plant amaryllis bulbs
Count back eight weeks from the date you want your amaryllis to bloom and you’ll know exactly when to plant it. Amaryllis likes to be pot bound, so choose a container that’s only just big enough for the bulb. It’s also best to choose a pot with drainage because, although amaryllis needs to be kept moist, it really hates to be waterlogged.
Begin by placing the bulb in lukewarm water until the roots have rehydrated. Then, using rich, very free-draining compost, fill the pot to around half full and place the bulb on top. Now cover the roots with more compost, leaving the top half of the bulb exposed to the air. Add some horticultural gravel to the surface to stop the soil drying out completely and give the bulb a water, letting the pot drain afterwards.
Now put your amaryllis away for around two weeks. What the bulb needs is a cool, dark place like a garage or shed. Once the bulb produces a shoot a couple of inches long, bring it out and place it somewhere warm but away from direct sunlight. The warmer the position, the quicker the plant will grow – don’t let it get too hot or it will shoot up too quickly and the flower stem may topple. If this happens, stake it. Your amaryllis will flower for around one month.
How to get amaryllis to flower again
As soon as your amaryllis has finished blooming, cut the flower stem off at the base and, if necessary, repot the bulb. Allow the compost to dry between waterings, but when you do water, do so thoroughly. During the spring, once all risk of frost has passed, move your pot outside and continue to water and feed weekly right up until late August. Now stop watering and as soon as the leaves have wilted and shrivelled, chop them off.
You should now bring the bulb inside, or move it into your potting shed – somewhere with an even temperature of about 12C. This allows the bulb a couple of months to lie dormant before you begin the forcing process once again. When you do this, scrape off the top inch or two of compost and replace it with fresh – avoid disturbing the roots at this point.
Which are the best amaryllis to grow?
- Red amaryllis – For a big bold red flower in time for your Yuletide celebrations, you can’t beat the lavish crimson of our red amaryllis. This bulb produces two or three stems with three to four flowers on each.
- Giant gold wax bulb – If you’re in the market for a table centrepiece that’ll be remembered long after the Christmas tree has come down, our giant gold wax bulb hits the spot. With this amaryllis, we’ve prepared it so that all the bulb needs to thrive is contained within its wax coating – simply place it in a warm bright spot and watch it grow.
- Amaryllis ‘Dancing Queen’ – With this gorgeous amaryllis, you get double trumpet flowers decorated with red and white stripes. This bulb flowers for a long time, producing plenty of colour for your winter windowsills.
- Amaryllis ‘Lemon Star’ – creamy lemon blooms with just a touch of green at the centre make this amaryllis a hit. It’s particularly lovely when combined with bulbs with high-colour flowers, producing a wonderful sense of contrast and variation.
- Amaryllis ‘Apple Blossom’ – A subtle contrast of pink and whte, ‘apple blossom’ is a lovely choice for bringing a hint of spring to the dark months of winter. Producing two to three flower stems with three or four blooms to each, this amaryllis flowers from December to March.
Amaryllis really is a must for anyone who relishes a splash of vibrancy and colour during the winter. Not only is it easy to grow, but with a little care and attention, you’ll get at least two seasons of beautiful flowers from a single bulb.
Lead image: Amaryllis ‘Minerva’ from Suttons/Copyright: Visions BV, Netherlands