Tips for your amaryllis

Jocelyne Sewell said the amaryllis bulb is easy to grow and to keep growing for a long time to come

With the first column of 2013, I would like to take the opportunity to wish all of you a very happy new year. May these coming days be filled with good health, joy and peace.

In mid-November I received a beautiful amaryllis from a friend. It has three large single flowers on top of a 53 cm stem. It is sitting on the window sill and I have to turn it around every day to keep it from leaning towards the light.

I found the following article in a Family Circle magazine of 1984, Beautiful and easy-to-grow amaryllis. The amaryllis is one of the simplest indoor bulbs to grow. When you get it, it’s ready to bring into bloom — no cold storage or forcing required. It will re-flower for years if you give it the proper care.

Choose a container that allows two inches of space between bulb and edge of pot. Place bulb in container and pack soil firmly around base, leaving bulb neck and about a quarter of bulb exposed. Set container in a cool room (15 to 18 C) in good light (such as an east window); direct sun isn’t necessary. Keep soil barely moist. Move plant to warmer environment (21 to 24 C) once stalk and strap-like leaves begin to develop. In six to eight weeks, a cluster of three or four large flowers will form on top of stalk. Larger bulbs may produce a second flower stalk when the first begins to go.

Once amaryllis blooms, feed it with a 5-10-5 fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength every two weeks as long as it’s in flower. Keep soil evenly moist. When flowers die, cut stalk(s) to about two inches and maintain regular watering. After last spring frost, place pot outdoors in the ground in semi-shady part of the garden. Leave there for summer. Before first fall frost, bring container into cool room with subdued light; snip off all foliage and let bulb rest for a month without water or food. Then begin to water (keep barely moist) to spur new growth, and maintain the plant as before. Repot every two to three years. Likes to be root-bound. Separate and pot up bulb offsets in fall and treat new plants as regular houseplants until they bloom.  Replace the top layer of soil each year and add a little bone meal.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is a gardening enthusiast and expert on organic gardening in Vernon, B.C. Her column, A Gardener’s Diary, appears every other Wednesday, January through November.