Hello plant friends! It’s November, which means most retailers are putting out their Christmas merchandise. Around here, it has become popular to have Amaryllis bulbs for sale with the Christmas things, and to have the bulbs bloom around Christmas time. Have you seen them? They’re GORGEOUS. 3-4 huge trumpet flowers with stunning colors grow from a large bulb on a tall stalk. They easily brighten up the dimness of winter. Many garden centers sell these lovelies in several stunning colors.
How to Care for Potted Amaryllis
When you get an Amaryllis at this time of year, it has been prepared to bloom around Christmastime, or toward the end of December. If your bulb is not already potted, you’ll want to put them in a pot that is quite close to the same size as the bulb, only about an inch of extra space on either side. Plant in well-draining soil with the bulb poking out of the soil at least an inch. If your Amaryllis is already potted, check to see if the pot is too big, or that the bulb is poking out of the soil. It really should not be covered.
Right now your bulb is asleep. You’ll want to gently wake it up. First, find a spot to put it where it will be in indirect light, like a north window or a kitchen countertop. Make sure it’s not somewhere too warm, or where a heater will blow on it. They only like to be from about 55-70 Fahrenheit. Go ahead and water it, but don’t get water on the bulb! Carefully water the soil only, and infrequently. They like to dry out between waterings, and don’t like to be soaked when they do get watered.
Your bulb will start pushing up some green from the top soon. Usually it’s a bud, which will be fat, but it might just be leaves, which are thin. Either way, this is exciting! Within that first week of growth both types will likely show up. It is good to set up some way to stake the blooms now or when you first pot it. You can buy commercial Amaryllis stakes, or many people poke a couple ⅜” dowels into the soil on either side and tie it up loosely with string. These can get tall, and will stay tall more easily with support. The stalks and leaves can bend fairly easily.
Your plant will start to lean toward the light, so it is good (but not a requirement) to turn the pot a bit every couple days, so that it stays more straight. Once this growth starts happening, you can start adding fertilizer to the soil about once a week. A lower formulation is good, somewhere around 10-10-10. Fertilizing now will not only help its current growth, but also make it more likely to bloom for you next year. The stalk will grow to about 3 feet tall, and then the fun happens! 3-4 blooms will stand out perpendicular to the stalk and take your breath away when they open! They will bloom for several days, and then start to wilt. When this happens, you can cut the stalk off at the top of the bulb, or a bit above. Don’t cut off the leaves!
Now is the time for the bulb to store away energy before it goes dormant, so that it can bloom for you again next year. Keep watering and fertilizing. Once danger of frost is gone outside, you can move it outside. It can stay in the pot or go into the ground. You’ll need to acclimate it to its new sunny home, or it will sunburn. Put it out a little while each day, adding a little more time as you go on, until it’s happy outside. You can put it in full sun. This time is for the plant to store up all the energy it needs to create that bloom for you in the winter. Water and fertilize, letting it dry out between waterings, and it will be happy.
Blooming for Christmas
When you got your bulb, it was already primed to bloom at Christmas. This time you need to do that priming yourself! Don’t worry, you can do it! If left to itself, the Amaryllis will bloom in the spring. Since you want it to bloom sooner, you’ll have to force it into dormancy sooner. Count backwards from when you want it to bloom about 12 weeks. For Christmas, you’ll bring the plant back inside in September. Stop fertilizing in August, and in September bring the plant in, put it in a cool spot that’s dark or dim, and stop watering. The leaves will turn yellow and droop. Don’t worry, this is right! This is the plant going into dormancy. Go ahead and cut off those leaves just above the bulb. From here, you can leave it in the pot, or you can pull it out and store it in a dry place. Let the bulb rest for 6-8 weeks. Completely ignore it. In mid- to late-November you can go get it and repeat the process over from where you started!
As long as you follow these instructions, you can be successful with caring for your Amaryllis bulbs year after year. Thanks for gardening with the Gardening Moose!