Amaryllis is my favorite house plant, although it often taxes my devotion.
While the bulbs seem to go on forever and never die, their blooming performance is decidedly temperamental to me. I class them as feminine, “uncertain, coy and hard to please,” to quote the poet, but I am duly grateful when they give their glorious blooms.
I have some 50 pots, with one bulb in each. In Summer, I plunge them in the garden in the sun and keep them watered and fertilized every few weeks with liquid manure or any commercial plant foods. I have tried knocking them out of the pots in May and planting them in the garden.
This would seem to give them a chance for more Summer growth, but with me, it results in more offsets, or bulb-lets, which do not help the mother bulb.
The Problem of Amaryllis Bloom
Perhaps the difficulty of getting bloom every year leads to many theories and some old wives’ tales. I have read that five leaves should give one flower stalk and seven leaves two stalks, but I often have five leaves and no flowers and sometimes fewer leaves with flowers.
I can’t see why they should be planted with the bulb half out of the soil or why they should be confined in small pots, having observed them growing very well in large pots with the bulbs buried.
A dormant period is called a requisite, but I have a better proportion of bloom from the bulbs which did not die down – perhaps 25% of the total than from the dormant and rested ones.
It is often stated that the old roots should be carefully preserved, but I have tried growing them in water, similar to hyacinth glasses, and the ancient dried roots disintegrated, with new roots replacing them.
A Successful Method
It is sometimes recommended to keep the bulb’s bone dry till the flower stalks decide to appear, but with me, they often sulk for six months or more.
My most tremendous success has come from resting the bulbs, where the foliage has entirely died down naturally, for at least three months, with the pots on their sides in the cellar.
Then dunk them, pots and all, for several hours in warm water and transfer them to the furnace room where it is about 60° degrees Fahrenheit.
This will start most of them, although it will not always bring up flower stalks.
I believe the difficulty in obtaining annual blooming is due to our comparatively short outdoor growing season for tender bulbs. The flower stalk of the amaryllis, often two of them, is a tremendous growth coming out of the bulb, usually before any roots have started.
Rebuilding the Amaryllis Bulb
The business of rebuilding the bulb in one year to reproduce such new giant stalks and flowers requires the maximum of sun, water, fertilizer, and a long and favorable growing season. I doubt if the usual pot gets enough water in Summer.
The big heavy roots, after they have developed, are very thirsty. As with all potted plants, it is well to knock out a few pots every week to see if the roots are dry or to water enough to have it run out of the pot periodically or to dunk.
4437 by M Cornell