Brilliantly colorful, long-lasting and simply stunning — amaryllis is all that, and more. Long esteemed for elegant holiday decorating, the beautiful blooms of amaryllis bulbs are also one of the easiest of holiday flowers to grow.

And unlike some holiday greenery that is discarded after the holidays are gone, amaryllis bulbs can be grown outdoors as container plants. Whether it is for your own decorating or for stellar holiday gifts, amaryllis should be your go-to holiday bulb flower.

“For many, the bane of the holiday season is in coming up with fun ideas for those important small thoughtful gifts designed to say ‘thinking of you’ or ‘thank you’,” says Sally Ferguson, of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center (NFBIC). “What makes a special gift to bring to holiday parties? To give to teachers? To the hair stylist, work friend, or neighbor? It’s always difficult to hit the right note at the right price, with the right dash of creativity, panache and pure pleasure. A blooming amaryllis is one gift idea that delivers a full whollup of ‘Wow!’ – and at very affordable prices.”

Best of all, says Ferguson, “most people respond to this flamboyant blooming houseplant with disbelief, ‘What is this?’ You get to say: ‘It’s an amaryllis!’ This happens so often that we named our new amaryllis info sheet ‘It’s an Amaryllis!’ Now, when someone gives a gift amaryllis, they can provide care tips, too.”

On bulb.com, the NFBIC now offers two free, downloadable, full-color amaryllis information handouts: One is a single sheet for home printers, one is a two-sided tri-fold piece for more sophisticated printing. Both are suited to printing on home printers or at copy/print shops.

• Amaryllis can be purchased as potted plants already growing or as bare bulbs to be potted up at home and presented as ready-to-grow gifts.

• When buying potted amaryllis as gifts, choose young plants not ones already in full bloom.

• When giving the bulbs, pot them up and present un-sprouted.

• For everyone, watching amaryllis grow is half the fun. For gardeners, knowing that amaryllis bulbs can be kept from year to year to bloom in future seasons, even for decades, is another delicious thrill.

Here are some growing suggestions from the NFBIC:

Amaryllis are normally planted in small pots that are a bit larger around than the bulb itself. Put a layer of heavy potting soil (soil/sand mixes are ideal) in the bottom of the pot, then pop in the bulb, and fill in with soil up to where the bulb’s “shoulders” taper inward.

The upper shoulders and neck of the bulb are left exposed. The pot should be watered well and the soil kept barely moist until growth begins.

After the green shoot appears, water regularly to keep soil moist but not soggy, and move the pot to a sunny spot. Access to good sunlight during the growing phase is important to keep the plant from stretching in search of light as this can result in the already tall stems growing even taller.

As with most bulb flowers, amaryllis will grow toward sources of light, so turn the pot regularly to keep the flower growing upright. A single amaryllis bulb produces multiple stems, each with multiple flowers. It takes only a single bulb to make an excellent display. Once the blooms open, move the pot away from direct sunlight and sources of heat to ensure that your blooms last as long as possible.

 

 

 


 

Amaryllis after the holidays

Most bulbs that are forced in winter have spent their energy by the end of flowering and can’t be made to bloom again, but Amaryllis is an exception. With minimal care, an amaryllis can be made to bloom the next season, and year after year.

“Some people have 40-year-old amaryllis bulbs handed down from their grandmothers,” says says Sally Ferguson of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center. “If you think that you might want an amaryllis you love to bloom again for years to come, grow it in soil not water.”

When the bloom is spent remove the wilted flowers, then treat it as a green houseplant. Water as needed, plus add a dose of houseplant food once a month until August, then stop watering and give the bulb a rest.

Leave the pot in this dry, dormant state for at least two months. When you’re ready to start the flowering process again, spread some fresh potting soil on the top of the pot and water well, letting water drain out the pot bottom. Move the pot to a warm area, not in direct sunlight. Water sparingly until you see signs of growth, then move the pot into bright light and start regular watering, as needed.

 


Lynette L. Walther is a member of the Garden Writers Association, and her newest book is“Florida Gardening on the Go.” She gardens in Camden. Got questions or comments? Join in the conversation. Visit her blog at: gardeningonthego.wordpress.com or “friend” her on Facebook.