Newest Wrinkle with Amaryllis Bulbs
Waxed bulbs seen at Lowes
Coating Amaryllis bulbs with wax is a new technique that is hitting the U.S. but has been done in Europe for years. Removing the roots and coating the entire bulb with wax keeps the bulb in a frozen state, meaning no water or sun needs, and the bulb will bloom its heart out. That means you can put it anywhere without a pot or soil, and it will bloom for weeks from this waxy covered product. One caveat though: It’s done when it is finished blooming. Throw it away! That might be a plus for some people as they don’t want to fool with keeping it alive until next year which can be tricky and takes time and effort.
Waxed bulbs come in exotic colors
You heard me right! You don’t have to water this bulb and it will bloom and look fabulous anywhere. There’s even a little metal stand on the bottom so it will sit up straight. You’ll probably get two bloom stalks from a single bulb, meaning weeks of bloom. And you can choose from different wax colors.
But if that technique revolts the gardening soul within you, then listen up on how to pot up new unwaxed Amaryllis bulbs, and also to get old ones to bloom. Here are some tips to be successful.
Amaryllis Tarantula (Green) used in White House arrangement
Choosing the Best Bulb
Always pick out the largest plumpest bulb that you can find, the jumbo size. Bulbs are storage vessels and the more storage, the more flowers. If you buy one at a big box store that is already planted in a pot, you usually get a plant with only 1 stem- a 26 to 30 cm bulb. You are paying for the convenience of an already potted bulb and you will pay a premium for that convenience. Choosing larger single bulbs at a good nursery or ordering on line will get you a better quality and larger, older bulb. The larger bulbs, 34 cm + are a full year older than the smaller bulbs, so you are paying a premium for the size. I prefer paying extra to get a larger bulb with more flowers that lasts longer, than for a smaller bulb which has been potted up. In addition, look for an emerging growing bud coming out of the bulb. Choosing one with a growing flower bud means that the bulb is ready to go and can bloom within 5-7 weeks.
Choosing an already potted bulb means fewer and smaller flowers
26/28 cm – 1 stem (occasionally 2) with 3 to 4 flowers
28/30 cm – 2 stems with 3-4 flowers per stem
30/32 cm – 2-3 stems with 3-4 flowers per stem
32/34 cm – 2-3 stems with 4-5 flowers per stem
34/36 cm – 3 stems with 4-5 flowers per stem
Quick Planting Tips:
Planting Period: October to April
Flowering Period: Late December until the end of May
Flowering time: 7-10 weeks
Larger bulbs: Produce more flowers
Always store: Un-planted bulbs in a cool place between 40-50 deg.
Flower Production: 2 to 3 stems per bulb with 4 to 6 flowers each
More Impact: Try planting 2 or 3 bulbs per pot
Amaryllis Minerva at Longwood Gardens
Closeup of Amaryllis Minerva
Of all the flowering bulbs, Amaryllis is one of the easiest to force into bloom. The Amaryllis, Hippeastrum, originated in South America’s tropical regions and comes in many beautiful varieties including reds, white, pink, salmon, and orange. There are also many striped and multicolored varieties, usually combining shades of pink or red with white. Doubles, miniatures, and some very exotic ones that look like butterflies are also available. The large flowers and ease with which they can be brought to bloom, make Amaryllis extremely popular. The blooms brighten a gloomy winter day and are a snap to grow.
Tarantula Amaryllis, a really exotic variety that flower arrangers use
Preparation for Planting
The base and roots of the bulb can be placed in lukewarm water for a few hours to jump start the bulb. If you cannot plant the bulbs immediately after receiving them, store them at a cool temperature between 40-50 degrees F.
Choose the Right Container
Pick out a container that the bulb will fit into snugly, maybe an inch or two larger than the circumference of the bulb
A ceramic container is preferable to a plastic one because the weight of a flower, stalk, and leaves in full flush, will topple over the whole plant
The shoulders of the bulb will be exposed above the soil line
Plant bulbs in potting mix, with the top 1/3 of the bulb exposed, being careful not to damage the fleshy roots. Press the soil down firmly to set the bulb securely in place after planting
Placement and Watering
Water until the potting mix is saturated and dump out any water that is sitting in the drainage saucer
After planting the bulb, place in a warm place with direct light since heat is necessary for the development of the stems. The ideal temperature is 68 to 70 degrees F
Hold watering until the stem appears, then, as the bud and leaves appear, start watering. At this point, the stem will grow rapidly and flowers will develop after it has reached full growth. The biggest mistake newbies make is over watering ending up with a rotten mushy bulb
Bulbs will flower in 7-10 weeks as a general rule. In winter the flowering time will be longer than in spring. Set up your planting schedule between October and April with this in mind. To achieve continuous bloom, plant at intervals of 2 weeks for stunning color in your home or garden. I always order about a half-dozen bulbs every year for flowering as well as bring my old ones into flower when I can, so I always have Amaryllis in bloom throughout the winter.
Botanical painting of an unusual Amaryllis
I like to place a metal stake in the potting mix at the time I plant the bulb so as not to disturb the roots. When your stems start to get heavy and floppy, you can tie them up.
Cut-Back- After the Amaryllis has stopped flowering, Don’t throw it away (unless you have a waxed bulb)! It can be made to flower again. Cut the old flowers from the stem after flowering, and when the stem starts to sag, cut it back to the top of the bulb.
Leaf Growth and development Continue to water and fertilize as normal all summer, or for at least 5-6 months, allowing the leaves to fully develop and grow. I just take all my pots outside and set them in an out-of-the-way place and never look at them all summer. Let the rain water them. When the leaves begin to yellow, which normally occurs in the early fall when the days get cooler, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil.
Bulb Storage- Clean the bulb and place it in a cool (40-50 deg. F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for at least 6 weeks. Caution: Do not store Amaryllis bulbs in a refrigerator that contains apples, this will sterilize the bulbs. Store the bulbs for a minimum of 6 weeks. I usually place the bulbs in a dark cool corner of my basement as I don’t have room in my refrigerator. Alternatively, you can leave the bulbs in the pots in a cool dark space. After about 6 weeks, scrape out the first couple of inches of soil and replace with new. I have been successful with both methods.
Removal from Storage- Once your cooling period is up, replant your bulbs as if it was a newly purchased one. For more impact, I like to pot three bulbs to a container.
Enjoy the color show all winter long!