Let amaryllis bring a touch of Brazil to your holidays
Brazil is a land of greatness. It is the largest Portuguese-speaking country on earth. Brazil’s national soccer team is the only squad to have been in all 20 FIFA World Cups. And Brazil is home to a flower that appears on many American holiday tables, the amaryllis (Hippeastrum).
The name “amaryllis” is from the Greek word amarysso, meaning “to sparkle.”
Around Thanksgiving, you will find amaryllis bulbs for sale, often in boxed kits that contain a bulb, a pot, and some soil. These are great gifts, even though they tend to be smaller bulbs and are only available in a few colors. Many nurseries and garden centers sell larger bare bulbs that give you more choice of variety and sizes. These bigger bulbs usually bloom with two or more flower spikes, and each flower spike will have two to four large, trumpet-shaped flowers. The larger the bulb, the more flowers your plant will produce.
If you can’t pot the amaryllis bulb right away, store it in a dry, cool, dark place.
An interesting fact to keep in mind is that amaryllis often won't bloom unless the roots are crowded. They may not bloom if they are in a pot that’s too big. Make sure there is no more than 1 inch of space on each side of the bulb, and 1/3 of the bulb should be above the surface of the potting soil. Plant the bulb in indoor, well-draining potting mix.
Before planting your bulbs, rehydrate them by soaking their roots in lukewarm water for a couple of hours.
Place a layer of soil in the bottom of the pot and set the bulb so the top pokes up above the rim. Tamp down the soil firmly around the edges, leaving the top third of the bulb exposed. If you plant it too deeply, the bulb may rot.
Set the pot in bright light and water it thoroughly, but water sparingly afterward. Only add water when the top inch of potting mix is dry, being careful not to get the bulb's neck wet. Let the soil to dry out between waterings.
You can expect beautiful, trumpet-shaped, lily-like blooms in just six to eight weeks.
Keep your amaryllis away from drafts in a bright room, but not in direct sunlight that can burn the leaves.
Amaryllis grows best in temperatures between 60° and 70°F (15.5° to 21°C). Place them away from cold windows and from heating vents or radiators that might dry them out.
Once the flower stalk appears, move your amaryllis into brighter sunlight. Rotate the pot every few days for even lighting and to prevent leaning.
While your amaryllis is blooming, move it to a cooler location out of direct sunlight to make the flowers last longer.
After the flowers fade, cut them off to prevent seeds from forming. Cut the stem off just above the top of the bulb.
Let your amaryllis grow after blooming as a foliage plant through the spring and summer.
After the leaves begin to turn yellow, usually in early fall, cut them back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb, and take the bulb out of the soil.
Brush off any loose dirt from the bulb and place it in a cool (40°-50°F), dark place. You can even store it in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. A word of caution: Never store amaryllis bulbs with apples, as this will sterilize the bulbs. Store the bulbs for a minimum of six weeks. After at least six weeks of rest, plant them eight weeks before you want them to bloom.
Plant amaryllis now and enjoy a bit of Brazil for your own tropical holidays!