University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter Article

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

Although poinsettias remain number one in popularity for holiday plants, a plant that's gained acceptance in recent years is the amaryllis. It's usually sold in either bud or bloom, is a fast grower, and requires minimal care.

The flower resembles a lily although it is not a member of that family but a tropical bulb originally imported from Central and South America. Since it does not tolerate frost, it must be flowered indoors. Although the normal flowering season is January through April, many greenhouses force it into bloom earlier to be ready for the December holidays.

You may be able to find some miniature varieties at complete garden stores or through mail order and the Internet.  These smaller plants grow to only a foot or so high and have smaller flowers but otherwise look like the traditional ones.

Most amaryllis plants are sold already potted. If you buy a plant not yet in bloom, keep the pot mix slightly moist through sub-irrigation with warm water. Do this by filling the saucer and letting the soil absorb the water. After 30 minutes, discard any water that remains in the saucer.

From this point, do not water until the flower bud is well developed. Then begin top watering. Keep in mind that the larger plants will require more water.

Place your amaryllis in a warm, shady location. If possible, maintain uniform temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees F both day and night. When the flower bud stalk is about eight inches tall, place the pot in a cooler location with more light. Water regularly at this stage of development. The larger the bulbs, the more likely you will have multiple flower stalks. You can make a plant flower for a special occasion by starting it five to six weeks before the selected date. To encourage early flowering, place the pot in a warm location. To slow growth, move to a cooler spot (around 50 degrees F) when the first bud is about to open.

If you buy bulbs separately instead of pre-potted, store them in a cool, dry location such as the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Although these will keep for long periods, if sprouts start to develop, you'll need to plant them as soon as possible. Be careful not to expose the bulbs to freezing conditions.

After your amaryllis has bloomed, you can save the bulbs to reflower in subsequent years. Start by removing the flowers as they fade. Continue to water the potted bulb regularly throughout the spring and summer. Apply fertilizer each month. After all danger of frost is past in the spring, plant the bulb, pot and all, in the garden in a semi-shaded spot.

Next September, take the potted amaryllis out of the garden before the first frost, and place it in a dry, warm place. Stop watering completely. When the leaves turn yellow, cut them off just above the bulb. In late winter, begin watering again for flowers in four to six weeks.

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