The amaryllis bulb is a welcome site to the dreary days of winter. The natural home for the amaryllis is South America and can be found in red, white, pink, salmon and orange color. It can also be stripped or multicolor in colors of pink and red with white.
If you plan to order an amaryllis for the holidays, keep in mind that it cannot be planted directly from the package. If you plan to plant the day your receive it, you will need to first soak it in lukewarm water for a few hours. If you are going to plant it later, store it in an environment that is kept between 40 and 50 F degrees. A perfect area to store your bulbs is in the crisper of the refrigerator but do not store with apples. This fruit produces a chemical that causes the bulb to become sterile.
Before beginning the planting process, the first step that needs to be completed is choosing and preparing the container. The container needs to be at least eight inches in diameter and deep. This will give the bulb plenty of room to grow. Once the container has been picked, place it in a tub with one capful of bleach and warm, soapy water. Wash thoroughly, rinse and let air-dry.
Next place drainage material inside the container. Broken potshards or unused coffee filters are a good choice. After that is done it is time to add soil. Amaryllis bulbs require a good compost type of soil. Once the soil has been purchased or you make your own, it is time to plant.
The planting process is a little different compared to other bulbs. To begin this process, make sure the drainage material is in the bottom of the pot. Once that is done, then place some soil in the bottom of the pot. Place the bulb in the pot making sure not to damage the roots. Then, fill in with soil until you reach the neck of the bulb. Amaryllis bulbs do not do well if planted too deep so make sure you only go up to the neck. After the bulb has been planted, gently tap the pot on a hard surface, add soil as needed, and press soil around the bulb. This simple move will help keep secure the bulb into the soil until it roots.
Once it is planted, move the bulb to a room where it can receive direct sunlight and be kept at a temperature between 68 and 70 F degrees. During this time only water your bulb sparingly until the stem appears. Once the stem begins to grow, increase your watering as the bud and leaves appear.
When the flower is spent, cut it off at the top of the stem. Once the stem begins to sag, cut it down to top of the bulb.
Continue to water the bulb and feed with an all-purpose fertilizer after it has flowered. Move outdoors as soon as the weather permits. Allow the leaves to develop and feed the bulb. Once the leaves begin to turn yellow, which typically occurs in early fall, cut the leaves back to within two inches of the bulb. Remove the soil gently from the bulb and place in a cool environment for at least six weeks.
After the six weeks have passed, you can once again plant your bulb. Do not remove the bulb from the cool environment until you are ready to plant. Repeat the planting process described above.
Amaryllis bulbs take 7 to 10 weeks to flower from the time they are planted. If you want constant bloom year round, plant a new bulb every two to three weeks.
Amaryllis bulbs are great bulbs for a beginning gardener to try to force. Just remember though that once you force the need for more bulbs will follow.