Time to try the versatile amaryllis
By Michelle Thompson
For diversity of flowers and color in your garden beds, borders and containers consider planting bulbs. There is some patience required when planting fall bulbs since the plant and blooms develop much later after the bulb is planted. Generally, bulbs are divided into two categories.
There are spring flowering plants which come up from fall planted bulbs and summer flowering plants which are usually planted in spring.
A low maintenance plant that grows easily in the garden as a spring blooming perennial is the amaryllis. Amaryllis have long green strap shaped leaves which grow a thick hollow flower stem above the foliage.
Their popularity is attributed to the abundance of different colored varieties featuring large showy flowers. Plants flourish in a part sun location in well drained moist soil but tolerate dry conditions once established.
Too much shade or planting the bulb too deeply can lead to a lack of blooms, so leave the top one third of the bulb sticking up above soil level. I like to sprinkle in a little bone meal in my bulb planting holes as a source of phosphorus which promotes fall root growth.
In early spring, upon emergence, is a good time to add additional fertilizer, I prefer the slow release organic types.
Amaryllis are also known for their beautiful red or white blooms during the holidays. For winter seasonal color, blooms can be forced by planting bulbs indoors 6-8 weeks before you want them to bloom. They are easy to grow in pots with potting soil or can be grown in water, although the latter method may rob the bulb of nutrients needed for the next bloom cycle.
Find a heavy pot with a drainage hole that will support the tall plant. The pot should be 1-2” larger in diameter than the bulb unless you plan on planting multiple bulbs together which requires a proportionately larger container.
Plant the bulb leaving 1/3 of the bulb above soil level.
Place the pot in a bright room or window sill and watering about once a week should keep the soil moist. Stems may need staking for additional support.
To rebloom a potted plant, stop watering in mid-summer for at least eight weeks to simulate a dry spell. Trim off the leaves after they shrivel and dry up. In early October repot the bulb for blooms after Thanksgiving.
The bulb can alternately be planted outside in the fall and will bloom in the spring.
Michelle Thompson is a Galveston County Master Gardener and is a member of Heritage Gardeners of Friendswood. She served as President 2018-2020.