You may find amaryllis bulbs still available in garden centers, and it’s not too late to force them indoors for a spot of color on a winter windowsill and then plant them for wonderful color for years to come.
Forcing the bulbs to bloom during winter is not difficult, and the results are beautiful, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.
Amaryllis generally blooms in two to four weeks after bulbs are planted this time of year. And some large bulbs may produce two flower stalks.
An amaryllis bulb purchased now should be planted into a pot using a well-drained potting soil and positioning the bulb’s neck just above the soil surface. The pot should be large enough to allow about 1 inch between the pot wall and the bulb.
You can use either clay or plastic pots, but because an amaryllis in bloom can be somewhat top-heavy, clay pots provide a little more stability. You also can buy amaryllis bulbs pre-planted in pots and ready to grow or even growing. However you obtain it, once an amaryllis is planted, place the pot in a sunny window — the more sun the better — and keep the soil evenly moist. When the flower stalk begins to emerge, rotate the pot about one-half turn every few days so the stalk will grow straight.
Otherwise, it will grow toward the window and look awkward.
Also keep in mind that if you provide an amaryllis with too little light, the flower stalk will grow excessively tall and may even fall over. Some time after the flower spike has emerged, leaves will grow from the top of the bulb. After the flowers have faded, cut the stalk at the top of the bulb, but don’t remove any leaves. Keep the plant inside and continue to provide plenty of sun or the leaves will be weak. Water the pot when the soil begins to feel dry, but fertilizing is not necessary during this time.
In March or April, you may plant amaryllis bulbs in the garden where they will make long-lived plants that bloom in spring. Amaryllis planted in the garden this spring will get into their natural cycle and bloom in following springs.
Amaryllis plants thrive in any reasonably good garden soil with adequate drainage and do well in full sun to part shade. Once planted and established, amaryllis can be left alone for several years.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.