Long lasting and vibrantly colorful, an amaryllis is so much more than a holiday bulb. Most bulbs called amaryllis belong to the genus hippeastrum, but this name is not used widely by home gardeners. Not all amaryllis are red or pink; Rilona is pale salmon, Germa is greenish yellow, Jewel with a lilylike, semi-double white flower has a delicate fragrance. All have stalks about 2-1/2 to three feet tall, with as many as four flowers per stalk. As some bulbs throw up three stalks, they at times may produce a dozen large flowers from one single bulb. You can purchase your bulbs through catalogs, on-line, or any local nursery or garden and home centers.

Growing your new amaryllis and keeping them year after year is extremely easy once you know what to do. Once you purchase your bulb, they should be stored in paper bags in a cool (around 55o F) dark place until after the New Year. When planting a group of bulbs, place bulbs close together with less than 1 inch surrounding them. Amaryllis, whether one or several, prefers to be crowded in the pot or it will not bloom. Place in a pot that is of sufficient size so that the bulb has at least a 1″ soil surrounding it for best results. Because the amaryllis is also top heavy, a terracotta pot with a wider base gives them better balance for the large flowers and weight. Water sparingly once and place in a warm (60o F) location out of direct sunlight.

Don’t water them again until the green stalk appears, this could take as long as a month but generally appears in two weeks. Once you notice growth, the pot should be watered regularly throughout the blooming and the ripening of foliage. As with any bulb, water until a few drops drain from the bottom of the pot. Because an amaryllis is growing daily, you might want to water almost daily. One you see your rewards you will be hooked forever on the amaryllis. This is the perfect indoor blooming bulb that can help us to get over the winter blues and brighten our homes with color. I prefer to have several blooming at different times for longer enjoyment. I pay close attention to them as if they were small children needing my daily love and nurturing. They’re exotic flowers that will last for up to three weeks and bring me back more joy each year.

Once your flowers droop and fade, it is simple to plan for a return performance each year. Cut off the stalks and watch the foliage emerge. Keep the plant watered and fertilized throughout the season until outside temperatures are consistently over 55oF. Slowly introduce your amaryllis to the outdoor world. Keep the pots in a warm, semi-shaded position, and in September begin withholding water to encourage dormancy. These plants can and may be somewhat stubborn about entering dormancy. Take control and don’t give them any more water or you will jeopardize getting flowers again next winter. Once you have noticed the foliage has died back, and before the first frost of old man winter, store potted bulbs (totally dry) in the cool place. Take a special note if you forced your amaryllis in water you will need to discard the entire plant after flowering. Water-forced amaryllis flowers last the same as those forced in soil, but the bulbs cannot be reused for the next year. Water forcing totally deflates the bulbs energy and it may never be used again. If you choose to water-force your bulbs, I recommend not to force rare, expensive bulbs, but rather ones that you don’t mind throwing out into the compost pile.

And there you have it.