I used to have 5 amaryllis bulbs, I had them for many years, they flowered every February/March and I always took the plants outside during the summer. And in late autumn every year I took the bulbs out of the compost, cleaned them up and put the bulbs in a container under my garden bench for the 6 weeks that they needed to be chilled in order to flower again. But one winter we had a lot of rain, the water managed to enter the box where I kept my amaryllis bulbs and they all rotted. I had to throw them all away and that was the end of it – for quite a few years.
Earlier this year I decided it was about time to get some new Amaryllis bulbs, and a good offer online made me make an order. My post today is about the development from bulbs to flowers, and I started out with two identical looking bulbs in two pots, one with red flowers, one with white. The plan was of course to have them flowering at the same time, but it was soon apparent that these two bulbs were going to develop in very different tempo. The bulbs were planted 9th of February and this photo was taken 28th February, after 2 weeks and 5 days.
And here they are moved to my kitchen as the window sill in my living room was no longer big enough. The white amaryllis has one stalk with 2 flowers fully open, it is 6th March and it is 3 weeks and 4 days since planting the 2 bulbs.
The white amaryllis has opened the other 2 flowers so in total there are 4. The other amaryllis has now THREE stalks (!) but still no open flower. It is 11th March, 4 weeks and 2 days after planting the 2 bulbs.
And only 2 days later two of the white flowers are gone but the red flowers are finally starting to make an appearance. It’s 13th March.
And here are the first red flowers, its 16th March, 5 weeks after planting the 2 bulbs. The white flowers have all gone and I am left with just a stalk.
The flowers last such a short time, even here in my kitchen where it is much cooler than in my living room. One single flower left and it is 27th March, 6 weeks and 4 days after planting the bulbs.
The white amaryllis hasn’t produced any leaves yet, I hope this is the leaves emerging here, but if I am really lucky it might produce another flower stalk – that happened now and then with my old bulbs. It just depends on how much nutrition there is stored in these new bulbs. But the amaryllis has to produce leaves, without any leaves it won’t be able to store nutrition for next year’s flowering.
The red amaryllis has produced a LOT of leaves, a real mess. I hope they will straighten up and become a bit firmer when they get outside in the summer sunshine, they look rather pale still, perhaps not so strange, growing here in my rather dark and dingy kitchen. But it is too cold for them outside here in London, they will have to wait until the night temperatures are well above 12-13 degrees.
And here it is all over for this time, yesterday all the flowers were gone, 29th March, 6 weeks and 5 days after planting the bulbs.
I looked up a few websites about how to care for your amaryllis bulbs after flowering, and most websites say the same as I have done for years, like this one:
After-Flowering: After the amaryllis has stopped flowering, it can be made to flower again. Cut the old flowers from the stem after flowering, and when the stem starts to sag, cut it back to the top of the bulb.
Leaf Growth and Development: Continue to water and fertilise as normal all summer, or for at least 5-6 months, allowing the leaves to fully develop and grow. When the leaves begin to yellow, which normally occurs in the early autumn, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil.
Bulb Storage: Clean the bulb and place it in a cool 5-10 C (40-50 F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for a minimum of 6 weeks. Caution: Do not store amaryllis bulbs in a refrigerator that contains apples, this will sterilise the bulbs. Store the bulbs for a minimum of 6 weeks.
Plant Again: After 6 weeks you may remove bulbs whenever you would like to plant them. Plant bulbs 8 weeks before you would like them to bloom.
This is how I have done it every year in the past, although as I always have fruit in my fridge I never used the fridge method. It’s not just apples that sterilise flower bulbs, most ripening fruit gives off ethylene gas, which can sterilize flower bulbs. Instead I cooled the bulbs outdoors, but here in London we are usually lucky and have the climate for that in late autumn, early winter. The amaryllis bulbs does not tolerate frost, one frost night is enough to turn the whole thing to brown mush! The only issue I have here is the time, mine have never taken 8 weeks to bloom, and as I have shown here - if I was planting them for an occasion they would all have been finished long before time if I had planted 8 weeks before.
But when doing my research for this post I found this information on the Gardeners’ World website, by Monty Don:
When the leaves start to turn yellow and die back, stop feeding it and reduce the watering but do not let it dry out completely. Cut back the dead leaves and the plant will go into its dormant period, when it can be left outside in a dry, sheltered spot until autumn. It can then be brought back indoors to a warm spot to trigger new growth. Hippeastrum should be re-potted only every three or four years as they dislike root disturbance, but when they outgrow their pot they should be re-potted in their dormant period between cutting off the flowers and bringing them indoors again.
I am not sure about this one, I understand ‘until autumn’ as they mean you are supposed to bring the bulbs in when autumn starts. That means the amaryllis will not get any cooling period, not here in Britain at least, it is still summer temperatures here at the start of September. I think I will keep doing it the tried and tested way, I had flowers every year that way - and I have never read anywhere else that amaryllis dislike root disturbance.
Just a final reminder of the gorgeous flowers.
I think the dark red one was my favourite, but this is also my favourite colour. The white amaryllis is called 'Mont Blanc' and the dark red is called 'Royal Velvet'.
What do you do with your amaryllis bulbs? Do yours end up on the compost heap or in the rubbish bin, like most people do? Or do you keep them too? How old is your oldest amaryllis bulb? And before I finish, did you know that amaryllis actually are called Hippeastrum – but not many seems to call them that :-)
Until next time, take care.