NDSU Extension - Griggs County

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November 13

Extension Connection Column by Jeff Stachler

Growing Amaryllis

Hello!  With being gone last week I did not drive the county so I’m unsure if corn harvest is completed, but I would think it is done.

Once in a while I will throw some horticulture topics into my column as is the case this week.

Amaryllis is a bulb producing large beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers.  The flowers can be six to ten inches across and come in numerous colors.  Flowers may be single or double.  Leaves originate separately from the bulb and are flat and quite long.  The only stem on the plant is the long flower stalk.

The amaryllis name is really incorrectly used because there is a plant with the genus Amaryllis.  Plants from this family originate from South Africa and flower in the summer.  Hippeastrum is the genus for what many call amaryllis which is what I am discussing.  These plants originate from South America and are grown indoors and flower during early winter.  Much work was done in the 1900’s to develop new varieties of amaryllis.

When starting amaryllis for the first time, purchase a large firm bulb with no signs of mold, decay, or injury.  The larger the bulb the more stalks and blooms will likely emerge.  Bulbs may be purchased planted or not planted.  If purchased planted, check the pot to make sure it is in good condition and has drainage holes at the bottom.  If purchasing the bulb only, obtain a durable pot with drainage holes that is only one inch larger in diameter than the bulb.  Amaryllis likes to be grown in close quarters.  Place a shallow layer of a good quality high organic matter and well drained potting soil in the bottom of the pot.  Place the bulb in the pot and fill the pot leaving one third to one half of the bulb exposed and one inch of space below the top of the pot.  Firm the potting mix.  Water thoroughly and place the pot in a warm (70 to 75 degree F), sunny location.  Keep the soil moist, but not wet.  Do not fertilize the plant until it begins to grow.  After it begins to grow fertilize regularly with a high phosphorus fertilizer.  When the flower buds begin to show color move the pot out of direct sunlight.  In four to six weeks after planting, the amaryllis should begin to flower.

Once the flowers have faded, cut them off to prevent seed production.  Leave the flower stalk until after it has turned yellow, then remove it without damaging the leaves.  Keep the leaves growing to produce food for next year’s flowers.  Place the pot near a sunny window and water when the soil surface gets dry.  Remove any excess water from the bottom of the pot after watering. 

Fertilize the plant every two to four weeks after flowering with a high phosphorus fertilizer.  After the danger of frost get the plant acclimated to outdoor conditions by first placing it in a shaded area.  Once acclimated, place the pot in a well-drained area of the garden with partial to full sunlight.  Only water when dry.  Fertilize every two to four weeks with a balanced fertilizer.  Before any chance of frost in the fall move the plant indoors.  When taking the plant indoors move to a sunny window if you don’t mind the plant flowering when it wants.  To control when it flowers it must go through a resting phase.  During the resting phase place the pot in a cool (50 to 55° F) dark location and stop watering.  Once the foliage has become dried and shriveled cut it off.  Allow the bulb to rest for 8 to 12 weeks.  Check the bulb occasionally and if leaves begin to appear move it into full sunshine and begin watering.  If the plants do not begin growing early, keep them in the cool dark area until four to six weeks before you want them to flower.  Place the pot in a sunny window and water thoroughly the first time and sparingly after that.  Since amaryllis bulbs like to be root bound they should only be repotted every three to four years.  Enjoy these beautiful flowers. 

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