I love Hippeastrum (confusingly known as Amaryllis). The size and colours of its flowers on such slender looking stems leave little wonder why it's such a popular Christmas gift.
Blooms will typically last about three weeks, depending on growing conditions and plant health. But don't throw it out once the flowers fade, with a little care this gift will keep giving.
Plants known as Amaryllis actually belong to the Hippeastrum genus
- Deadhead each flower as it fades, including the green stem that attaches the flower to the main stem.
- Once all of the flowers are finished and have been deadheaded, don't rush to remove the main stem. The stalk contains food and sugar that the bulb will pull back to use. The perfect time to remove it is when the stem starts to turn yellow and sag.
Leavfe the main stem when you begin to deadhead
- Cut it away, making sure not to cut the top of the bulb and or the surrounding leaves. Don't be alarmed if some sap leaks from the cut, this is normal and will soon stop.
- Your plant may need higher light levels to continue growing. Move to a north or east-facing window as they will not be exposed to direct sunlight.
- Water the soil whenever it begins to dry.
- When new leaves begin to grow, feed every two or three weeks, but with only half the recommended strength. Feeds can be sprayed or watered in.
Your plant will much prefer to be outside over the summer, from around April or May. Place where it will receive full morning light, but has some protection from the hottest part of the day.
Amaryllis will grow better if left in containers, so bury the whole planter with just the rim showing above the soil.
The soil will act as a natural buffer, helping to prevent the pot from drying out, overheating or becoming waterlogged. It will also help to protect the bulbs against burrowing animals and insects.
You can plant bulbs directly into the soil, but maintaining the ideal growing conditions becomes harder.
Tip Be prepared for the leaves to flop over when you first move your plant outside. New leaves will soon appear.
- Watering. Check the soil regularly and water when almost dry. Water in the morning, and avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent scorching. Ideally, try to keep the soil moist, but not soaked as this could rot the roots.
- Feeding. Feed every two weeks with a soluble houseplant fertiliser, following the packets instructions to dilute.
If you have no outdoor space, it is possible to keep your plants growing indoors. Place your container on a bright, north or east-facing windowsill and follow the same feeding routine. You may need to water more, so remember to check daily.
Amaryllis leaves will slowly droop and turn yellow, letting you know when to start reducing watering, image by Candide user @wotalark
Caring for an Amaryllis in autumn
When the weather cools, the leaves will begin to turn yellow.
- Reduce watering. As the leaves start to die, slowly reduce watering, but do not let the soil dry out completely.
- Remove the dead leaves. Once the leaves have withered, remove them from the bulb just above the neck.
- Bring indoors. You will need to dig the pot up before the first frost. If you have planted out, make sure to dig up the bulb and roots carefully. Place in a cool dark place at about 5 to 10ºC.
For those who don't have a suitable space, you can also store your bulbs in the fridge. Many fruits such as apples release chemicals that can sterilise the bulb, so remove all fruit beforehand.
- Store for six to eight weeks. To get your bulb to rebloom, they need a dormant period. The best way to provide this is to leave your Amaryllis bulb in a cool, dark environment for at least six weeks. You will not need to water during this time, but regularly check to remove any dying leaves.
The promise of an emerging Amaryllis bub always brings excitement, taken by Candide user @privategreen
To get your bulb to flower again in time for Christmas you will need to remove the bulb from its storage at least six weeks before.
If you want the Amaryllis to rebloom by another point in the year, remove the bulb from the dark at least six weeks before.
Check out Alan's guide on how to pot up bulbs:
If you've been given a waxed bulb, these will not be able to grow roots or absorb water to replenish themselves. These are one bloom only gift.
A waxed Amaryllis bulb, image taken by Candide user @ChristinaM173