Amaryllis are a tender bulb from Brazil and so need to be grown inside – frost free – when it’s cold, but once the frosts are over and the nights are no longer cold, they can be moved outside until the end of summer. Think of them as a tender garden plant – not a house plant – and treat them much as you would a precious pot of freesia or non-hardy agapanthus.
Soil and Site
Amaryllis like their soil rich, but exceptionally well-drained, so ideally create a mix from one part well-rotted manure, one part horticultural grit or sand, and two parts leaf mould. Two-thirds good compost mixed with one-third grit also does fine.
Keep them in a bright, warm, sunny place, ideally at about 20°C, free from draughts of an open window. A shelf above a radiator is ideal.
Plant the bulb two thirds in, one third out of the compost.
They like to feel confined; put them in a pot just 5-6cm (2-2½in) wider than the diameter of the bulb, with a crock in the bottom for extra drainage. Plant them firmly, really cramming the soil around the bulb to hold them in their elevated position.
Fill the forcer with water, enough to fill the bottom section of the vase, but not to touch the bulb. The roots will grow down into the water. Place the container in a cool, dark room (approx 10-15°C), checking the water level daily, until you see root and top growth (about 2-3 weeks). Move the container to a bright room, but keep it out of direct sunlight. The amaryllis will bloom in 6-8 weeks after being moved into the light, and should last for 4-6 weeks.
Once the plant is flowering, continue the watering and keep it out of direct sunlight, and slightly cooler (10-15°C), but as light as possible to promote a longer flower life. Each individual flower should last two or even three weeks before they brown. As each one fades, cut it off at the top of the stalk and then when the whole stalk is over and begins to sag, carefully cut it off just above the bulb nose.
After flowering you can keep them from one year to the next. Feeding needs to continue and you want to water too, until the leaves begin to yellow in late summer/early autumn. At this stage, cut the leaves back to about 6cm (2½in) from the top of the bulb and remove it from the pot. Keep the bulb cool (5-10°C) and dark, to give it a dormant period for 8 weeks before you can encourage it to come into leaf and flower again When the temperature in your greenhouse falls to below 10C, bring them into the warmth and begin gentle watering again and your bulb will re-shoot. Don't re-pot it for the first couple of years; it hates root disturbance.. The older and bigger the bulb, the more flowering stems you’ll get, so it’s worth the trouble of nurturing these mini football bulbs.
Bulbs older than two years will produce offset bulblets. These may be left attached to the mother and re-potted with her, creating an amazing show, but its best to remove them carefully just before you replant and put them in their own individual pots. These little bulbs will take two years before producing their first flower, but it will be a proud moment when they do.
To make them look lovely straight away, poke in lots of silver birch, alder, oak or hazel branches between the bulbs. The twigs give the amaryllis support as they grow and the burgeoning nest of twigs and emerging shoots make a fantastic table centre even without the flowers.
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