Although the cold weather has not yet arrived in our area, it soon will. When the bleak mid-winter weather begins to get us down, there are blooms to lift our spirits. The amaryllis is one of these blooms. Cultivate an amaryllis now and you will be uplifted by its extravagantly large flowers in the dark days of February. The most commonly encountered bloom is fiery red in color, but amaryllis (spelled the same whether singular or plural) also come in white, candy stripes and even lavender.
Amaryllis bulbs have just arrived in all the garden centers and big box stores such as Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart. As a general rule, amaryllis bulbs will flower in seven to ten weeks from the time they are potted. Amaryllis that are purchased already potted just need a thorough watering with lukewarm water to start the process. Water sparingly after the initial watering—too much water can cause the bulb to rot. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch.
Bulbs sold in bags should be placed in a pot with good potting compost. Each bulb should be planted up to its neck, and the soil firmed to secure it in place. Keep the potted bulb in a warm place that gets direct sunlight. Our homes offer an ideal temperature of 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Water sparingly until the stem appears and then increase watering as the leaves and bud appear. The flowers of the new bloom should develop rapidly once the stem has reached its full growth.
For a more exotic look, amaryllis can be grown in glass vases using stones to support the bulbs and roots.
If you plant a bulb (or bulbs) at intervals of two weeks you can enjoy a continuous stream of blooms throughout the winter months, hopefully preventing winter blahs.
One of my favorite nurseries, White Flower Farm, in Litchfield Connecticut, has a wonderful variety of amaryllis bulbs, and provides on-line help with growing amaryllis through step-by-step videos such as “How to Pot and Care for Amaryllis” and “Growing Amaryllis in Water.”
I’m going to pot an Amaryllis ‘Ferrari’ now for a spectacular Valentine’s Day gift for my sweetheart. He’s always wanted a Ferrari, and this is likely to be as close as he will ever get to having one.
Eleni Silverman is a Master Gardener, President of the Belle Haven Garden Club, Chair of the Landscape Committee at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and author of the garden blog "Belle Haven Garden Maven." She is sole proprietor of The Well Tended Garden, providing garden grooming, coaching and design. She admits to a fascination with all things gardening, believes even compost is engaging, and will eagerly discuss the relative merits of leaf mold versus hardwood mulch.