Few plants bring more cheerful smiles indoors during the dark, cold days of winter than the bright, bold blooms of potted amaryllis.
When forced into bloom indoors, these flowering bulbs send up spectacular trumpet-shaped blooms that can reach 10 inches in diameter and delight in a wide array of colors, including red, pink, orange, salmon, white and bi-colors. Each stalk, ranging from 24 to 36 inches tall, can yield two to six lily-like blooms – some varieties produce singles, others doubles.
Amaryllis bulbs can be purchased at garden centers in the fall, either loose or already potted doubles (Note to self: The bulb is poisonous so keep away from kids and pets). When buying individual bulbs, choose large solid ones with no soft spots or other signs of decay. Select a pot 1 to 2 inches wider in diameter than the bulb and be sure the bottom contains a drainage hole. Place a small amount of well-drained potting mix in the bottom of the container and nestle the bulb into the soil surface, filling in around the bulb so that the upper half of the bulb remains exposed above the soil. Water thoroughly and place the pot in a warm location (70-75 degrees).
Allow the soil to dry a little (but remaining still moist) before watering again, typically once a week. As green growth appears, move the pot to a sunny window and feed the plant a water-soluble fertilizer, repeating every two to four weeks. As the stalk emerges and grows, turn the pot often to keep the stalk from leaning.
Typically, flower buds will form and blossom within six weeks of planting. When this happens, move the pot to a cooler location that doesn’t receive direct sunlight, in order to prolong the flowers – and to enjoy this taste of spring while it lasts!
Once the flowers have faded, cut the stalk back to a couple inches above the bulb and return the pot to a sunny window, watering as the soil becomes dry. By late May, the bulb can be transplanted outdoors until next fall.