Yard and Garden: Keep Amaryllis Plants Growing

December 20, 2017, 10:10 am | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa – Amaryllis plants are a fun, festive addition to the holiday season. But what should be done with them after they’re finished flowering? Can they and paperwhite narcissus bulbs be saved for further use?

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer questions about amaryllis, paperwhite narcissus and other seasonal plants. 

What should I do with an amaryllis after it is done blooming?

Amaryllis bulbs are forced indoors for their large, spectacular flowers. Some individuals discard the amaryllis after flowering. However, it is possible to save the amaryllis and force it to flower on an annual basis. The key to successful reflowering is proper care.

AmaryllisAfter the flowers fade, cut off the flower stalk with a sharp knife. Make the cut one to two inches above the bulb. Don’t damage the foliage. In order for the bulb to bloom again next season, the plant must replenish its depleted food reserves. The strap-like leaves manufacture food for the plant. Place the plant in a sunny window and water when the soil surface is nearly dry. Fertilize every two to four weeks with a dilute fertilizer solution. 
The amaryllis can be moved outdoors in late May. Harden or acclimate the plant to the outdoors by initially placing it in a shady, protected area. After two or three days, gradually expose the amaryllis to longer periods of direct sun. Once hardened, select a site in partial to full sun. Dig a hole and set the pot into the ground. Outdoors, continue to water the plant during dry weather. Also, continue to fertilize the amaryllis once or twice a month through July. Bring the plant indoors in mid-September. Plants left indoors should be kept in a sunny window.  
In order to bloom, amaryllis bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 50 to 55̊ F for a minimum of eight to 10 weeks. This can be accomplished by inducing the plant to go dormant and then storing the dormant bulb at a temperature of 50 to 55̊ F. To induce dormancy, place the plant in a cool, semi-dark location in late September and withhold water. Cut off the foliage when the leaves turn brown. Then place the dormant bulb in a 50 to 55̊ F location for at least eight to 10 weeks.

After the cool requirement has been met, start the growth cycle again by watering the bulb and placing it in a well-lighted, 70 to 75̊ F location. Keep the potting soil moist, but not wet, until growth appears. The other option is to place the plant in a well-lighted, 50 to 55̊ F location in fall. Maintain the amaryllis as a green plant from fall to early to mid-winter. After the cool requirement has been met, move the plant to a warmer (70 to 75̊ F) location.

What should I do with paperwhite narcissus bulbs after the plants have flowered?

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs are forced indoors for their clusters of small, fragrant, white, yellow or orange flowers. After flowering, paperwhite narcissus bulbs should be discarded. Paperwhites cannot be successfully forced again and are not winter hardy outdoors.

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