Growing Amaryllis in an Apartment Window

If you would like to attain the reputation of being a particularly successful window gardener, grow the gorgeous Dutch hybrid amaryllis.

Amaryllis in Apartment WindowPin

One bowl or even 10 of these spectacular, tropical bulbs arranged along a window sill, with their huge scarlet, white, orange, or pink blossoms silhouetted against the snow outside, is a dramatic sight — yet one which is more easily accomplished than commonly believed.

Choose Your Bulb Selection Wisely

Proper bulb selection is a matter of prime importance.

A famous Dutch amaryllis grower near Amsterdam told me this spring: “Flattish-shaped bulbs are the best; tall bulbs are old and may do anything.”

At flower shows, judges usually favor solid-colored rather than striped blooms.

In this matter, I do not necessarily agree because the striped flowers can be rather showy.

One Holand hybridizer maintains: “The best amaryllis flower is dark, with gold flecks shining on it in the sunlight.”

Favorite Varieties

As for colors, the selection is best determined by a personal taste in achieving particular color schemes.

After more than 20 years of experience in growing amaryllis in my windows (it all started with a bulb of the small-flowered, orange-yellow Hippeastrum puniceun (equestre) purchased from a country woman), I find that my preference today is for the thrilling scarlet to dark red shadings of Ludwig’s Scarlet.

When eight blooms of Ludwig’s Scarlet, each measuring 8″ or more inches across, burst into splendor for him, any window gardener may expand his chest in justifiable pride.

Its strong rival is Peacefulness, which is resplendent with blood-red, vibrating through a glow of carmine-red. Crimson Velvet is also magnificent.

White Giant, with its twin-tubed stem and blue-green leaves, perhaps tops among the elegant whites, but it has a close runner-up in Ludwig’s Dazzler.

Miss Margaret Truman is the fabulous, cathedral-glass-like rose amaryllis.

Apple-Blossom has real charm in its satin whiteness touched with dawn pink.

Orange Empress is a handsome blossom of soft orange; white Rosy Wing has distinct rose-pink allure.

Doris Lilian is strangely breathtaking, with its carmine-rose color, which brings back memories of my childhood days when I used to get pokeberry juice on my fingers!

Ideal Growing Conditions Of Amaryllis

Ideal Planting Bowl

In my experience, I find that amaryllis grows equally well for one blooming season in a bowl without a drainage opening or in an ordinary clay pot with a hole in the bottom.

Certainly, the bowl is less messy on the window sill than a pot and a saucer.

The ideal bowl seems to be a tall, plain, pot-shaped kind, with a slight outward flare at the top and glazed in a soft shell pink color.

A 6 ½” inches high container, with a diameter of 8 ¼” inches at the top, will accommodate most bulbs.

A row of these bowls along a window sill makes a neat appearance and provides a practical method of growing these superb flowers.

The size bowl I have suggested enables the bulbs to be set down slightly within the container, partly obscuring them from view.

Thus, space is allowed to supply water without overflowing onto the window sill.

Excellent Plant Medium

Commercially-prepared bulb fiber is an excellent plant medium for amaryllis.

Its porousness allows air to circulate through the bulb and the roots in a container without a drainage opening.

At the time of planting bulbs, I find that placing four odorless Fulton’s Plantabbs in the fiber at the bottom of the bowl does not harm; probably some good, because I usually get flowers 8″ inches and larger, with two sturdy, tall stalks — each surmounted by four majestic blossoms.

Soil and Planting Practices

A renowned amaryllis grower in Holland once mentioned that the ideal preparation for growing amaryllis was ⅔ leaf mold and ⅓ old, decomposed cow manure — and nothing more. He recommended changing the soil each year.

Plant only one amaryllis bulb in each bowl or pot, allowing about 1″ inch of space between the edge of the bulb and the inside of the container—all the way around.

Carefully spread out all the old roots on the bulb.

Experienced growers have frequently advised: “Don’t ever pull off live roots on amaryllis bulbs; in fact, don’t pull off any roots, dead or alive. Before planting a really dry (rootless) bulb, put the whole bulb in lukewarm water for two hours.”

Bulbs should be planted with the lower half covered and the upper half exposed.

Grow Them in Fiber

After purchasing my bulbs in October, November, or December, I usually plant them at once in wet, prepared bulb fiber. Then the bowls are placed in a coolish, out-of-the-way location, but not in the dark.

I water them a bit when they look unhappily dry and bring them to a sunny window when the flower buds peek out of the top of the bulbs about one-half inch.

From then on, they are watered sparingly to be kept damp but not soaking wet.

Subsequently, the tall, flowering stalks may need the support of a small bamboo or slender wooden stake.

If the plants can be placed where it is cooler when the flowers burst, their life can be considerably prolonged.

Purchasing amaryllis bulbs late in the season has not been a successful experience for me, especially if I buy bulbs with buds or a bit of the stem showing.

Although the bulbs seem anxious to burst into bloom, the flowers are small and appear on short inferior stems.

After amaryllis finishes flowering, the fans or strap-like leaves are attractive, but in May, I give the growing bulbs to a friend who has a garden.

He plants them in a shaded spot, covering them completely for the Summer, and waters them regularly with liquid manure.

Early in September, he digs up the bulbs, pots them, and brings them into his home. Then water is completely withheld, and the leaves can dry and die.

At the beginning of November, he cuts off all old or re-mining new foliage.

When the new flower buds appear, he repots the bulbs in a fresh soil mixture and flowers them again indoors during the winter months.

I do not keep my amaryllis bulbs after they have bloomed because I use the bowls for that splendid, white lily-flowered Ismene calathina, more correctly called Hymenocallis calathina, the Peruvian daffodil or basket flower.

Likewise, after blooming, their cool-looking green leaves are handsome during the summertime.

As September approaches, 7 or 8 giant bulbs of Colchicum autumnale major are placed on top of the prepared bulb fiber in each pink bowl.

These surprising bulbs require neither planting nor watering; they just sit in the sunshine.

When they bloom, their orchid-pink beauty rivals, for about 3 weeks, any Fifth Avenue florist’s orchid display.

Then in the Fall, I start again with the glamorous Dutch hybrid amaryllis!

44659 by John S. Van Gilder