I just have to show off my amaryllis. These immense bulbs hold the promise of magnificent tropical blossoms that will take your breath away. All they need is some potting soil, warm water and a warm home to bring them into lovely bloom.
This year I wanted some beauty on my windowsill in this dreary time of year and since one can never have too many amaryllis, I haunted garden and hardware stores that were getting rid of them after the holidays. I bought several bulbs at discounted prices and they’re just coming into bloom.
I’m never good about remembering to force them into bloom for the holidays, so I’ve made it a routine to bring up the pots of bulbs from the basement in May when it’s warm enough to put them outdoors to start forcing. By mid-June I have breathtaking tropical bulbs blooming all over my patio.
Last year I put 10 bulbs in a huge terra cotta pot and they tag-teamed with blossoms for almost two months. After they were finished, I had a mass of strappy attractive foliage for a backdrop to show off low, small pots of peach geraniums and nasturtiums for the rest of the summer.
I plant my amaryllis in small plastic pots with only about 2 inches to spare around the bulb. I give them high quality potting soil, and when I bring them out of the dark to force, I replace about an inch of the soil with fresh potting mix, begin watering and in about a month, they push into bloom.
After they bloom, I cut out the flower stalks and fertilize regularly during the growing season. This is an important step because it returns energy to the bulb after flowering, just as the hardy bulbs need it. If you don’t fertilize, you won’t get flowers the following year.
If you grow them indoors, when they are finished blooming, cut out the flower stalks, put them on a sunny windowsill and treat them just like other house plants. Just remember to fertilize regularly, unlike many other house plants.
Then, after exposing them to the outdoors gradually, in May the plants can go out into the garden, where they will use the sun (and your fertilizer) to put energy into the bulbs and create a flower bud for the following year. I like to bury the pots somewhere in the perennial garden so they are unobtrusive but I can keep an eye on them. Before frost threatens, I lift the pots and stop watering. This dries them down for winter storage. I’ve had great luck simply keeping them in a dry, cool basement in their pots.
It doesn’t get much easier than this for absolutely delicious blossoms in summer.
Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.