A friend gave me this amaryllis for Christmas. I finally got around to taking it out of the box the other day and found it had already sprouted a bud. What a lucky break! Amaryllis is a stubborn bulb that is tough to coax out of dormancy.
I'm always reading rave reviews about how easy they are to grow. Hah! What they don't tell you is that you must have the patience of a saint to get them to flower, much less rebloom. Some varieties are easier than others. According to White Flower Farm, South African Amaryllis have an earlier timetable than their Dutch cousins. A good thing to remember when you're ordering them or giving one as a gift.
They're long lasting bulbs, but what good is that if you can't get them to bloom again? I have several from last year lined up on my windowsill in various stages of growth. I decided to take photos of their development and share a method I've hit upon after years of experimenting. After all, it's easier to be patient when you're confident of success right? Getting them to rebloom (or bloom in the first place!) boils down to three basic things: a sufficient dormant period, withholding water and bottom heat.
Step 1: Feeding and care of the bulb
After your amaryllis blossoms, cut off any spent flowers and stalks. If it didn't bloom, just leave the foliage. Water weekly and keep it in sunlight. Let it live outside with your other houseplants over the summer. Afternoon sun burns the leaves, so keep it in dappled light. Feed regularly with a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle Gro or Peters 20-20-20. Feeding is important - you're growing the bulb and helping it to store nutrients for next years flowers. Amaryllis bulbs need a dormant period of about two months. Around late September, bring them inside, cut back the foliage and put in a cool (around 50 degrees or so) dark spot. Mine go in the bottom of a closet or in a dark corner of an upstairs room no one uses much. Do not water. Below you can see what a dormant amaryllis bulb looks like. It looks dead right? So long as it's firm to the touch you're good.
The one below is just starting to come to life. All the information I've read tells you not to overwater. I recommend that you don't water at all. If you do, all you'll get is foliage.
Step 2: Bring the bulb out of dormancy
Bottom heat brings bulbs out of dormancy faster. It stands to reason - these tropical bulbs are used to growing in warm soil. I use a grow mat I bought for starting seeds. A heating pad will work too. If you don't have a way to give them bottom heat, put them near a radiator. It seems like they look dead forever, but resist the urge to water. Put them in or near a sunny window.
Step 3: Watch and wait
Take a look at the photo below. See that fat little bud emerging on the side? That's what you want to see, not the green foliage starting up at the top. If you look at the above photo, you'll see thin green blades emerging from top of the bulb in the bottom of the photo. Not good, I'll probably only get foliage out of this one. In a weak moment, I made the fatal mistake of watering it. You have to be hard hearted. It know, it's hard, the thing looks half dead and every instinct you have tells you to give in.
I withold water even when the bud starts to emerge. That's because I might get another one out of the bulb. If so, it will probably come out in a week or two. If I water too soon it will start producing foliage. The process of the bud coming out seems to take forever - anywhere from 6-8 weeks.
Step 4: Blooms at last
Once the stalk and flower emerge, water once a week. You do not need to feed it. Indirect sun is preferable, too much sun will make the flowers fade faster. Most amaryllis produce several flowers, snip off spent blossoms to keep it going. When flowers are in full tilt they get top heavy, flop over and break. Avoid this by staking it with a sturdy branch or bamboo garden stake.
Good things come to those who wait, and amaryllis are certainly worth it. I can't think of anything else that lights up a winter windowsill like this!