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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: How to nurture an amaryllis to bloom again

While the traditional method for the post-bloom care and re-flowering of amaryllis is a safe bet, other growing methods are also worth a try

Dear Helen: I’m caring for a holiday gift amaryllis, hoping to nurture it well enough for the bulb to survive and bloom again. I’ve noticed your accounts of various ways different people do this and I have to admit to becoming a little confused. Could you describe the traditional method of amaryllis care, and then follow up with a few other options?

C.P.

In the traditional method for the post-bloom care and re-flowering of amaryllis, the first step is to remove faded flowers. Water regularly to keep the leaves growing. If possible, place the pot outdoors in filtered sun or light shade for the summer. Water regularly and fertilize every two weeks with a solution mixed at half the recommended label strength.

Stop watering the plant in late September and bring it indoors when overnight temperatures begin dipping below 10 C. The leaves will begin drying down. Remove then once they are dry, and store the pot in a cool (10 to 14 C), dark place for at least eight to 10 weeks.

After this “rest” period, or when the first nubs of growth appear (whichever happens first), bring the pot into room temperatures, replace a top layer of potting mix with fresh, and water. Repotting is usually necessary only every two or three years.

As growth emerges, place the pot in bright indirect light. To help keep a growing flower stalk straight, give the pot a quarter turn clockwise, weekly.

Most amaryllis varieties, after being kept over and grown for two or more years, will produce small baby bulbs alongside the “mother” bulb. These bulblets can be separated from the mother bulb after the rest period and potted individually to grow, over several years, into flowering size bulbs.

Baby bulbs can also be left in place, the bulbs moved into a larger pot as needed. If all goes well, this can eventually result in a group amaryllis planting with more than one flowering stalk.

Here are other growing methods that I have observed and heard about.

* Green year-round. Some people don’t induce a rest period for their amaryllis bulbs. Instead, they keep them green and growing year-round. Over time and as offset bulbs emerge, a planting can become a mass of green leaves with a yearly display of sometimes several flowering stalks. I heard from a woman who inherited such a planting from her mother. The planting was over 30 years old.

Another person described seeing an amaryllis planting that had never been forced into dormancy. It was kept as a green plant year found, with the occasional yellowed leaves clipped off after they had dried. Offsets that developed were left on the plant, and the entire clump was moved on to bigger pots as needed. The planting was described, at the time of viewing it, as having eight stalks bearing red flowers all at once.

* In-garden bloom. I’ve heard of amaryllis bulbs or plants being transplanted into the garden, at whatever stage of growth they are, in the spring when the soil has begun to warm. Before frost in the fall, they are dug up, allowed to dry off, and stored at 10 C. At the first sign of growth, they are planted in the garden if the weather is warm enough or potted to await transplanting into the garden.

* Take a chance outdoors? A few years ago, a potted Red Lion amaryllis that I’d neglected to bring indoors for the winter survived outdoors to grow again, but I’m sure it would not have survived the two periods of freezing weather we had this past winter. A friend kept a potted planting in the shelter of a garage over the winter and brought it outdoors in the spring. I saw that potted clump blooming in June.

In December, before the Christmas freeze-up, Linda wrote about an amaryllis bulb that was “dumped in our side flower bed, where it grew for at least two years as just a lovely green plant with no flowers. In the spring (2021), I saw green growth again and in June I was surprised to see a red bud that opened into flowers within a week.” I suspect the bulb may not have survived the severe holiday temperatures.

* Note: After their first post-purchase bloom, amaryllis bulbs commonly revert to their natural cycle of spring flowering.