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The Fifth Season
by Kylee Baumle - posted 12/05/11

Some amaryllis will bloom before they produce foliage, such as this ‘Lemon-Lime’. Others do it in reverse, sprouting foliage first.

Due to their increasing popularity, there are more varieties of amaryllis available than ever before. ‘Charisma’ has beautifully shaded petals.

Larger bulbs characteristically produce larger and more blooms and most will eventually produce “offsets” which can be separated from the parent bulb and planted on their own. This is an extremely large Hippeastrum bulb.

To everything there is a season, it is written, and no one knows this more than gardeners. We cold-climate growers have just wrapped up the biggest one of all – summer – and have enjoyed a pretty luxurious fall. Most of us don’t really look forward to the cold and gray days of winter, but at our house, we celebrate another growing season: The Amaryllis Season.

Hippeastrum, the botanical name for amaryllis, have become a familiar site at holiday time. Their gigantic flamboyant blossoms remind us of an earlier time, when the gardens were all decked out in their summer colors. As we decorate our homes for Christmas and other winter celebrations, amaryllis find a natural place among the festive trimmings.


How to plant your amaryllis bulb

Forcing bulbs, in general, is a popular activity in winter, and amaryllis is one of the easiest for this. Choose a firm bulb – the largest you can find – and plant it in a pot that’s only a little larger in diameter than the bulb itself; they like it snug. Place the bulb so that one-third to one-half of the bulb is above soil level.

Put it in a location with bright light (but not direct sunlight) and watch for new growth at the top. When you see that, then you can begin to water your bulb. Make sure you don’t keep it too wet, waiting until the top of the soil is dry before watering again. Bulbs kept too wet are subject to rot and this also encourages tiny black flying insects called fungus gnats.

It takes about four to six weeks for the bulb to produce a bloom, once it begins to grow. Keeping the flower in a cool location, out of direct sunlight, will make it last longer. Amaryllis are suitable to use as a cut flower, too. But what happens when the bloom has wilted and died? Do you throw it away?


After the bloom has faded

Amaryllis are inexpensive, considering the show they put on and the enjoyment they give, but it would be a shame to discard the bulb once it’s done blooming. Keeping an amaryllis is just as easy as it is to bring one into flower. Simply continue to water it as long as the foliage remains green. Some varieties will give green foliage year round, but others don’t. Again, refrain from giving them too much water; these South American natives like it on the dry side.

If the foliage yellows and dies, discontinue watering, store the bulb in a dry location (pot and all) and when the soil warms in the spring (over 50 F), you can plant it in the ground, where it will begin to grow again. If you’re lucky, you might even get a summer bloom. Take the bulb in before frost and store it in a dry, dark location for about six to eight weeks, then start the cycle all over again for holiday blooming. Many of my amaryllis bulbs are more than five years old and are still giving me joy during The Amaryllis Season.



Kylee Baumle is a freelance garden writer and photographer living and gardening in Zone 5b in northwest Ohio. She is the author of the award-winning blog, Our Little Acre.