to Care for a Potted Amaryllis
Amaryllis bulbs are often given as gifts for the holidays, later producing their large, spectacular flowers to brighten the recipient's home or office. Potted amaryllis bulbs can be found in many stores in December, or in mail-order catalogs. Amaryllis bulbs are sometimes also sold without a pot so they can be planted in a pot of your choice.
Amaryllis flowers come in a variety of colors, all shades of red, pink, orange, white or bicolor. Some amaryllis bulbs produce single flowers while others produce fancier double blooms. Some of the more spectacular amaryllis blossoms can grow as large as 8-10 inches across.
When purchasing unpotted amaryllis bulbs, choose those that are large and feel solid. The largest bulbs will produce two or more flower stalks, and the size of the bulb is relative to the size of the blossoms it will produce. Never purchase
unpotted amaryllis bulbs that have already begun to sprout. The bulb will have used up much of its energy if it sprouts too soon.
Once planted, water the potted amaryllis well and place it in a location where the temperature is about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Some sources say that the bulb should not be watered again until it begins to sprout. Once it sprouts, a potted amaryllis should be kept moist but not soggy. Soggy soil can suffocate the roots of a plant. Make sure that the pot your amaryllis is growing in has drainage holes, and if it doesn't allow for drainage, shift the bulb into a pot that allows for drainage.
Once the large, exotic flowers appear on your potted amaryllis, move the plant to an area where it will receive indirect light and cooler temperatures. Cooler temperatures will prolong the life of the blossoms, while warm temperatures will cause the blossoms to wither sooner. Avoid keeping a potted amaryllis near a heat source.
Potted amaryllis bulbs will produce flowers year after year if they are treated correctly. After the plant has finished blooming, move it back to a sunny window and give it water when the soil surface is dry. Again, be careful to not overwater the plant. Continue fertilizing the amaryllis with a dose of half-strength fertilizer once or twice a month until the outdoor temperatures stay well above freezing, generally in May. Gradually expose the plant to outdoor temperatures and sunlight for several days, setting it outside for a longer time each day. Once the plant is accustomed to bright outdoor sunlight, you can plant your amaryllis, pot and all, in a spot where it will receive partial to full sun. Keeping the amaryllis in its pot will prevent it from growing into the soil outdoors and it will be so much easier to dig out the pot again when it's time to bring the amaryllis indoors again.
After 8-10 weeks of being ignored, the amaryllis will have had enough rest and will be ready to begin growing again. The amaryllis can be moved back to its sunny window and given a good drink. The amaryllis bulb will soon begin to sprout. Once it sprouts, begin giving it half-strength fertilizer again and your potted amaryllis will soon produce another lovely display of its extraordinary tropical blossoms.
by Michael J. McGroarty