Caring for Your Amaryllis

Submitted by Faye Mahaffey

OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer

 

Have you received any plants for a holiday gift? A “non-gardening” friend of mine called this week asking what to do with her newest present – an Amaryllis. She was sure that this plant would meet the same untimely “death” joining all her other houseplants in plant heaven. I assured her that she could enjoy this showy plant and with proper care, enjoy it next holiday season as well.

The Ohio State University’s horticulture website, www.plantfacts.osu.edu, provides the following information about an Amaryllis:

The large, showy, lily-like flowers of the Amaryllis make great indoor potted plants during the winter holiday. Choose a container an inch or two larger in diameter than the base of the bulb and at least five inches deep; this plant likes to be a bit pot bound. The container should have a drainage hole in the bottom. Fill the containerwith a loose mix of two parts potting soil and one part Perlite.

Plant the bulb so that the top half or two-thirds of the bulb is above the soil level. Try to spread the roots apart slightly in the soil mix as you are planting. After planting, water the soil mix thoroughly so that water drains out of the container.

Place the potted bulb in a warm (70 – 75 degree F) and sunny location for growth to begin. Water as the soil mix becomes dry to the touch; if the mix is kept too wet, the bulb may rot. As the roots grow and fill the pot, the mix will dry more quickly, and you will need to water more frequently.

Six to eight weeks after planting, the plant should be in bloom. Larger bulbs may produce two or three flower stalks. Generally, the flowering stalk will appear before leaves do, but not always. Once growth has begun, rotate the container daily to prevent the flower stalk from leaning toward the light source. Occasionally, the flower stalk will need to be staked to keep it from falling over.

 

Cooler temperatures will contribute to a stockier and sturdier plant, so after growth begins, move the plant to a 60 – 65 degree F location. At this point, begin to fertilize the plant with a soluble potted plant fertilizer (5-10-5, 6-12-6, or equivalent), and do so every two weeks.

When the flower bud begins to open, take tweezers or small scissors and remove the anthers before they open and shed pollen, which will extend the bloom period by several days.

After the flower fades, remove the flower stalk by cutting it off near the neck of the bulb. Do not remove any foliage – the leaves are needed for photosynthesis to produce food for rebloom the following season. Keep the plant in a sunny location and water as needed.

Keep up on watering and fertilizing until mid-May. The plant can be placed outside about the third week in May, so begin the acclimation process about a week before. Gradually acclimate the plant by increasing exposure from shade to full sun over a week’s time. It will need full sun exposure in well-drained, fertile soil.

The bulb can be removed from its container and can be planted in the ground, which seems to produce better results regarding flowering next winter. Another option is to sink the plant in its container in the ground or leave it in the container set on top of the soil surface. Whichever method you choose, keep the plant well watered and fertilize about every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer that has a high phosphorus content (such as a 10-20-10). The plant should produce more foliage and will set its flower buds over the summer months.

September is the time to think about bringing the bulb back inside before night temperatures consistently fall into the 50’s. If the bulb was planted in the ground, dig it up and wash off the soil. If the bulb was growing in a container outside, bring it indoors, pot and all. In either case, allow the bulb and foliage to dry off naturally; foliage can be cut off when it turns brown and falls over. Bulbs will need to go through a resting period of about four months; store in a cool, dry area, near 40 -45 degrees F. After the resting period, pot bulbs in new soil and begin to grow them for the winter season.

My Amaryllis is in full bloom and is gorgeous! I have a friend on Facebook that has been posting her multiple plants in full bloom and all her friends are a bit worried about her new “obsession!” At last count, she has at least 20 Amaryllis (that she has admitted to). One plant suffered an upset at the paws of her indoor cat, but I think it survived!

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our Pollinator Education Series being held on March 12 and March 13. Denise Ellsworth, OSU Program Director for Honey Bee and Native Pollinator Education, will conduct the Pollinator Advocate Certification training on March 12 at the Clermont County Fairgrounds 4-H Hall in Owensville, Ohio from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. You need to register for this free training by calling the Clermont County Extension office at 513-732-7070.

Later that evening at 7:00 p.m. Denise will talk at the monthly meeting of the Brown County Beekeepers Association in the Community Room of the Western Brown High School in Mt. Orab, Ohio. She will talk about Phenology for beekeepers, which will be helpful to gardeners as well. This program is free and open to the public.

On March 13, Gardening for Pollinators will be the subject of the seminar being held at the Brown County Fairgrounds (Rhonemus Hall), in Georgetown, Ohio from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

We know, as gardeners, that we play a vital role in the development and conservation of habitat that benefits pollinators. Come learn practical steps gardeners can take to create or enhance habitat, including plant selection and simple design elements.

We are still enduring the crazy weather ups and downs. Cold, wet, frozen, un-frozen, you name it, it is happening! How many days until spring?

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