Amaryllis bulbs are a popular holiday gift and are easy to care for. They should be in bloom around Valentine’s Day, just when we all need some cheer and color.
I like to pot up each bulb in a 6″ round pot, with one third of its neck exposed, using regular organic potting soil. To help the desiccated roots rehydrate, I soak the roots in a shallow pan of warm water for a few hours before potting.
Keep the plant in a moderately warm, dark spot and water lightly until it begins to send up a flower stalk. Then bring it into full sun and water as soon as the soil dries out. As the stalk emerges, the plant will require more frequent watering. You may need to stake it with a slender bamboo stake and soft twine if it threatens to topple.
Usually amaryllis bulbs send up multiple stalks, so cut the first one out of the way with kitchen shears as soon as the blossom fades. You may want to experiment with small South African miniature bulbs, as well as the larger Dutch hybrids. Forcing an amaryllis bulb is a great project for kids, who enjoy seeing the rapid growth of this plant.
At this time of year, I bring out my copy of Starr Ockenga’s book Amaryllis. This skilled photographer/writer grew hundreds of bulbs in her greenhouse and photographed them at various stages in their life cycles.
If you decide to save your amaryllis plant, it can summer outdoors in its pot or in the ground. Once it produces five or more leaves, there is a good likelihood that it will bloom again next season. Bring inside before frost and let the plant rest in a dark basement for a few months. In January, bring it up into the warmth and light. Then begin to water as above for another season of glorious color.