Amaryllis After Christmas -- Now What?

Everyone loves amaryllis. After it finishes blooming, though, you're probably wondering, "What the heck do I do with it now? Should I just throw it out?"

This was the question posed by Debbie, a curious and obviously committed reader. She writes, "What are the necessary steps to do afterward if you want that same bulb to grow and bloom again? How many times can you do this process before the bulb will no longer grow and bloom again? I am a novice with plants, so please give me step by step instruction."

Debbie, you are indeed fortunate. You have contacted the all-knowing Grump, who has been blooming the same amaryllis bulbs year after year. It's easy to do if you follow these steps.

1. After the flowers fade, cut off the bloom stalk. If the pot doesn't have a drainage hole, transplant the bulb to a slightly bigger pot that has one. Fill the pot with fresh potting soil and plant the bulb so that its top third shows above the soil surface. Your bulb can stay in this same pot for many years.

2. Large, strappy leaves will emerge from the bulb. Place the pot near a bright window until it's warm enough to set the bulb outside. When it is, place the bulb in a sunny spot. Water often enough the keep the leaves firm and prevent them from wilting or turning brown along the edges. Every couple of weeks, feed the bulb using liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer.

3. Continue this practice until September. Then cease feeding and reduce watering to once a week. Come October, stop watering entirely. After the leaves turn yellow, cut them off. Take the pot inside before a frost and place it in a cool, dark area. Ignore it for the next two months.

4. When the two months are up, water once more and wait to see signs of life. If things go well, you should see a big, fat green flower bud emerge from the top of the bulb. At this point, bring the pot and bulb back into the light and begin watering normally. After it finishes blooming, go back to step 1.

One thing you have to know is that amaryllises normally bloom in spring, not in December. The ones that bloom for Christmas are grown in greenhouses to get them to behave that way. If you want amaryllis blooms for Christmas, buy some that are blooming then. The Grump finds it easier to let the bulbs do their own thing.

Amaryllis from Seed?

The questions about amaryllis just keep flooding in! Here's an interesting one from Charlotte, who wants to know what to do with seeds that form if you don't cut off the bloom stalk.

"A friend gave me a handful of Amaryllis seeds from her plants to "root" a plant. She thinks since I grow African violets and one orchid I can grow anything...HA! I have no idea what to do with these seeds. I live in Denver, CO. Hope you can help."

The Grump is happy to help with your question. The first thing to do is to determine which seeds are viable, as not all are. Thin, chaff-like seeds with no discernible "bump" in the middle are likely worthless, as they lack embryos to make new plants. The next thing you'll need is a wide, shallow, clear plastic or glass container.

Fill the container about halfway or a little more with with warm, not hot, water. Float each amaryllis seed on the surface. Give the container bright light, but not direct sun. Any non-viable seed that you didn't detect before should sink to the bottom. After several days, each viable seed will sprout a white root.

When the root is a half-inch or so long, fill a pot with moist potting soil. Use a pencil to poke a hole in the potting mix. Carefully insert the white root into the hole, firm potting soil around it, and water. The seed itself should be sitting flat on the soil surface. Again, give the container bright light, but not direct sun. After several days, a small, grasslike leaf will emerge. Gradually move the pot into the stronger light of an east or west window. The amaryllis will slowly form a tiny bulb. Feed every couple of weeks with liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to half-strength.

Don't expect flowers right away. That will take a couple of years, until the bulb has reached sufficient size. In the meantime, why don't you get even and send your friend lots of African violet and orchid seeds?

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