Amaryllis potting day

by Caroline Brown

Today was amaryllis day. The poor bulb has been sitting in the box for a couple of days waiting for me to attend to it. I’ve never done an amaryllis before so you get to follow the progress here. I ordered it from White Flower Farm. Here’s the unpacked bulb. To the right is a head of garlic for perspective.

There are two kinds of amaryllis, Dutch and South African. Dutch amaryllis bloom in winter, while South African amaryllis bloom in the fall. If you’re lucky enough to live in zone 9 or 10, you can plant them outdoors, where they’ll bloom in late spring or early summer. But for those of us not so lucky ones, amaryllis is an easy bulb to “force” indoors in the fall or winter.

This particular bulb is called Amaryllis Benfica, a Dutch variety. The flowers will be dark red, supposedly measuring 7-8″ across. Thanks to White Flower Farm’s catalog writer, I have very high expectations for the Amaryllis Benfica:

The shapely blooms and rich, iridescent colors of Amaryllis will light up a winter day like nothing else we know.

The Amaryllis you see offered locally bear absolutely no resemblance to the lusty giants we secure through special contracts with a Dutch grower.

Shapely! Lusty Giant! Steady people…it’s a bulb, not a blow-up doll.

Aaaanyway, it’s easy to pot an amaryllis bulb (thanks to the very detailed directions that WFF provided). First you fill a 6-7″ pot halfway with moist potting soil, and set the bulb on top like so:

Continue to fill with moist potting soil until all but about a third of the bulb is covered, like so:

Since I share my house with a certain Felis sylvestris catus who believes that all dirt is litter, I am compelled to cover the soil with a light layer of peastone. You can also use Spanish moss if you don’t like the looks of a pot full of dirt. (I can’t though, because aforementioned F. sylvestris catus would destroy it in a matter of minutes.) Then, the potted bulb goes in a sunny window where the temperature remains above 60 degrees F.

Warmer is better…the warmer you keep it, the faster the amaryllis will grow. WFF suggests providing “bottom heat,” using a heated propagation mat, or placing the pot on top of the refrigerator. Water only when the top inch of the potting soil is dry to the touch–overwatering can cause the bulb to rot. Rotate the pot periodically so that all sides get even sun. In about 8-10 weeks, it’s supposed to look like this:

I’ll keep you posted on its progress, making sure to let you know as it becomes shapely and lusty.

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8 Comments to “Amaryllis potting day”

  1. White Flower Farm has been a reliable source for me over the years.

    I have kept my amariyillis blooming three winters so far.

    After it blooms I let it die back and keep it outside over the summer. In the fall I cut it back again and put it behind the bathroom door where it gets very dry and very little light. In November, I start watering it again with a little fertilizer and put it in the sun.

    Yours will bloom. They “always” do the first year. The more sun the better bloom.

    Enjoyed your blog.

  2. Wow, that is so beautiful (the finished result I mean!!) Ive seen these before and they are gorgeous and do light up a dreary day.

    I like your first photo, the amariyillis bulb looks like a bird!
    Good luck with the growing. 🙂

  3. Good luck with yours Caroline! I was given one as a gift before I hit the road across country in winter a few years back. Sadly, it froze to death in the trailer somewhere around Wyoming. I shall enjoy them vicariously through your blog. 🙂

  4. I currently have four amaryllis resting in my basement under the utility sink, but this story was a reminder to get them out and going again. All of them are at least 5 years old and one of them– an “apple blossom” –is probably close to 15 years old–I also have a “baby” from this one that blooms, too! They spend their summers outside in the pot, between shrubs where they are in dappled shade and protected from strong winds. I keep them well-watered and fertilize once a month or so. I bring them inside before the first frost and put them in a dark, cool place and let the tops die back and the soil completely dry out. Sometime beginning in November, I cut back the roots to a few inches (let them dry out a bit before repotting) and replant in the same pot but with fresh soil. I put them in a south window and they always turn out beautifully! I have begun staggering the repotting every two or three weeks so that I can enjoy their magnificence all winter. It’s like opening a gift every few weeks!

  5. So many people have amaryllis stories, I’m excited to be adding mine as the season proceeds. Already I can see a little green shoot coming up. Thanks for all the advice about how to care for in the future. I think I’ll turn that into a future post once the amaryllis has bloomed and is ready to sleep for the season.

  6. I love Amarylis, and am especially partial to the deep reds like Red Lion. I have tried and tried, following instructions carefully, but I’ve never yet been able to get one to rebloom after the requisite rest period. When I go out and buy a new one as you’ve done, they bloom famously. I have several around the place that don’t do a thing but I won’t toss them. I just can’t bring myself to throw away a living thing. If I knew someone nearby who “has a way” with getting them to rebloom I’d cheerfully pass them on.

    I look forward to watching yours grow — I know it’ll bloom for you … er, as long as that latin cat keeps her paws off
    🙂

    Diane, Sand to Glass

  7. Hey, one of my four is a Red Lion. It reblooms just like the others after a summer outside, dieback and drying in the fall, and repotting in late fall or early winter. Give it a try again this year–they must get that good summer sunshine outside to rebloom! Also, I have found that they like clay pots better than plastic–although you do have to water more often.

  8. I had a whole stable of amaryllis bulbs — picotee, peach-colored, red, pink, and was branching into cybister hybrids — and they would bloom twice a year, once in summer and once in winter. I’m not sure what the secret was, but it was great to have amaryllis blooms outdoors in summer and indoors in winter.

    Alas, I lost all of them and a pot of Pancratium maritimum to narcissus fly maggots shortly after we moved to our house, and I went without amaryllis for 2 winters.

    I’m going to try them again this year, though — got two bulbs, in addition to a bunch of bulbs for forcing.

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