From the Ground Up: Amaryllis Bulb Care
by: Lisa Slattery, ISU Extension and Outreach Linn County Master Gardener
The Linn County Extension Hortline has had several calls this past week asking about how to save and care for amaryllis bulbs. those beautiful showy holiday favorites. It can be done but the key to repeat blooms is proper care.
Once the amaryllis blooms fade, cut off the flower stalk, leaving 1 to 2 inches above the bulb. Don't cut the foliage since that's what the bulb uses to replenish itself for next year's bloom. Place the plant in a sunny window and water only when the soil surface is dry. Fertilize every two to four 4 weeks with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
In late May, relocate the amaryllis plant outdoors, making sure to harden it off first. To harden off any plant, initially place it outside in a shady, protected area. After two or three days, gradually expose the plant to longer periods of direct sunlight. Once the amaryllis is hardened, dig a hole and set the pot into the ground in a sunny location and continue to water during dry weather. Also mark on your garden calendar to fertilize the amaryllis twice a month through July. In mid-September bring the amaryllis back inside and leave it in a sunny window.
To force blooming you have to induce the plant to go dormant and expose the amaryllis to temperatures of 50 to 55 F for a minimum of eight to 10 weeks. To induce dormancy, move the plant into a cool, semi-dark location in late September and withhold water. Once the foliage turns brown, cut off the leaves and place the bulb in a 50 to 55 F location for at least eight to 10 weeks. After cooling, you will start the growth cycle again by watering the bulb and placing it in a well-lit, 70 to 75 F location. Keep the potting soil moist, but not wet, until growth appears, hopefully followed by beautiful blooms.
It's frustrating to go through all this care, only to have your amaryllis produce foliage again but no blooms. There are several possibilities that this may happen. Perhaps the amaryllis didn't store enough food preserves in its bulb over the spring and summer months. This would give you a lovely green plant because there is enough energy stored for leaves but not enough for flowers. Another problem that can be common is that the bulb isn't exposed to the proper temps (50 to 55 F) for the proper time (eight to 10 weeks) in fall. Warmer temperatures and the flower won't develop.
You can leave your amaryllis in the same pot for up to three to four years since they do not require frequent repotting, but if you'd like to change pots the best time to repot is immediately after its cool period before it reblooms.
For specific questions about amaryllis or other holiday plants, call the Linn County Extension Hortline at 319-447-0647 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo: Connie Wier
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