The colorful amaryllis blooms in winter and early spring, lifting spirits everywhere! But how do we keep our amaryllis plant healthy and reblooming year after year? Here are gardening tips.
Preparing Amaryllis for the Winter
Here in New Hampshire, winters are long. The landscape is somewhat bleak (although snow scenes can be pretty) and the only flowers that we get to view are inside.
That’s why amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are so prized in winter climates. Big, bold, lovely blooms can keep us company during the months of short days and their care is fairly minimal.
These bulbs grow in talks that can rise 24 inches high! And their colors are spectacular—ranging from reds and pinks to yellows and even bicolors.
Amaryllis Life Cycle
The amaryllis plant starts out as a bulb—often sold as kits containing a bulb, a heavy pot (for stability), and some growing medium (ideally, a sterile, peat-based planting mix).
Native to tropical Chile and Peru, amaryllis normally blooms from February to April. The leaves grow during spring and summer.
Then the bulb goes dormant until December or January. But don’t worry! After a dormant period, it will prepare itself for another season of blooms the following winter!
Amaryllis Care for Winter, Spring and Summer
Most of the year, these plants live on a sunny windowsill.
They are happy at normal room temperature and being watered sparingly. (Only water whenever the top inch of potting mix is dry, taking care not to get water on the neck of the bulb.)
It usually takes amaryllis about 6 to 8 weeks from potting up to come into bloom. After blooming, keep the plant in a bright, cool location. Because the flower stalk is so tall, you may want to stake it. Turn the pot every several days for even lighting.
Some people put them outside in the summer months, but this is not a necessity.
Watering them when needed is all the care that they require until the fall. As the individual flowers fade, carefully cut them off.
In the middle of September (before the first frost), put the plants in the root cellar to rest. This can be any dark spot where they won’t freeze (55 to 55 degrees is ideal).
Don’t pull off the leaves, they will die back fall off gently in their own timing. However, once the leaves have died back, you can clip the old leaves a couple of inches above the neck of the bulb.
Store the potted bulb indoors for at least an 8 to 10 weeks period of dormancy and exposure to cooler temperatures.
At the beginning of November, you will start to pull the amaryllis, one at a time, out of the root cellar.
I wait two weeks before I pull out another. I have seven plants so this will give me almost continuous blooms throughout the latter part of the winter.
I then scoop out about ⅓ of the top of the soil around the plant.
Flowers love bone meal so I add a small scoop or two around the top of the remaining soil.
Then I fill up the rest of the space with a good quality potting soil.
I make my own potting soil in the summer. I have a soil sterilizer (a big metal contraption) that allows me to heat up a couple of buckets of compost to 200 degrees. This kills most of the weed seeds and insect larvae so that I feel comfortable bringing it in the house. After it cools down, I put it in a 5-gallon bucket.
Last year, I left it in my garden shed, so it was frozen solid when I went to use it. This year, I put it in the root cellar in the fall.
This is the soil I also use to start my onions. Onion planting time is right around the corner!
See my article on starting onions!