Sunday, 30 March 2014

My Amaryllis

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.

51 comments:

  1. I don't have them helas. What a beautiful flowers Helene. I see in gardens in California they can plant them in theire gardens. Fantastic photoserie's.
    Have a wonderful sunday.

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    1. Thanks Marijke, the flowers are spectacular, and so big! If you live in an area without winter frost it is possible to grow these in your garden so I can imagine that in certain parts of California these are suitable for all year outdoors. There are some hardy varieties of Hippeastrums on the market, they can tolerate down to -5C, but those I have seen are all cream/white, smaller and not all so showy.

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  2. I have had quite a few over the years but many have split into smaller bulbs if I have tried to keep them. I always called them hippeastrum but other people didn't know what I was talking about - there are some wonderful varieties about nowadays aren't there.

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    1. I used to call them Hippeastrums too, but stopped doing so as no one seemed to know what I meant! There are so many lovely varieties, I would like to have them all :-)

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  3. Thank for the great tutorial. My amaryllis get stagnant, no dormantion but no flowers this year. I think that they only get a limited sunshine on my front yard. I planted three varieties. Your white amaryllis look so amazing. I have never seen this color before. Thanks for sharing

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    1. I can imagine it must be difficult to grow amaryllis in your climate as they won’t get a proper chilling period when dormant. I know they need full sunshine after flowering to store enough nutrition for next year’s flowers.

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  4. They are so pretty. Your tutorial is very helpful for rebloom. I usually keep them outside after the first year and only one has rebloomed so far and that was in the summer. Amaryllis are hardy enough to stay outside all year in my climate.

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    1. You are fortunate not to have frost that kills the bulbs, the right climate for amaryllis! I think I could have had them outside this winter as I haven’t had any frost this winter, but last winter we had weeks on end with well below freezing – every year is different here in London so you never know. But heavy rain is also detrimental to the bulbs and they can rot just as easily as freeze, our wet winter this year would probably not have been ideal!

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  5. I won an amaryllis for a prize at Christmas. I had seen somewhere that you could put it in a glass pot on top of rocks and add water. Well, the poor thing went mouldy, so I took it out and put it in soil. It thanked me with a flower. The leaves are there, but they haven't emerged. So I am glad that you included a few tips in your post. Hopefully, I'll put it out in the garden this spring. I think I'll try storing it in the basement. It's pretty cool down there. Your two lovely amaryllis are what my little one aspires to be!

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    1. I have also seen amaryllis bulbs in glass vases with rocks and no soil, looks very pretty but I have never tried it myself. I won’t try it after hearing your experience… Your basement should be ideal if it is below 10 C, dark and dry should be perfect. Good luck with your prize!

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  6. Every year my SIL buys us one of these beauties but I've never kept them for the following year. This will be my 2015 New Years resolution (assuming she doesn't change our annual gift). Thanks for sharing Helene xx

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    1. You’re welcome Jane, hope she buys you this time too, they really are not much trouble sitting out in the garden all summer among the rest of the plants, and when the autumn comes they just die down like all the other herbaceous plants and you know it’s time to take them out of the pot and find a dry, dark place for them for a while. Just don’t forget them if we get an early frost :-)

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  7. Your red and white amaryllis bulbs were both beauties! I received a bright red amaryllis bulb several years ago as a Christmas present. I wasn't sure what to do with it after it finished blooming, until I saw an amaryllis coming up in a friend's garden. So I planted mine! I wasn't sure it would make it through the winter, but It did and was more beautiful than it ever was inside. This year we had a bitter cold winter with temps often below freezing and a couple of nights below 10 degrees F. I wasn't really expecting the amaryllis to make it, but today I see new growth!

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    1. Oh, lucky you, perhaps they are tougher than we give them credit for? I haven’t dared planting any of mine permanently out in the garden, but I have read once the bulbs have reached a good size they are more resilient and if mulched well and has good drainage they can tolerate winters better. Perhaps I should just take the plunge…

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  8. I've always treated them as disposable. The one year I put one in the garden to live through the summer and then come back inside to rebloom, I sold the house and left the bulb in the ground; your post made me remember that. Sigh.

    Hey, your phalaenopsis sure seem happy.

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    1. That’s the problem with moving houses – and gardens, all the plants we leave behind. I have left so many plants in gardens I have moved from over the years! Perhaps this is a good time to look for a couple of new ones for your current house?
      And yes, my orchids had to take a back stage in this post but they occupy the only good window sill I have downstairs - here in my kitchen, they seem to like this west-facing window.

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  9. I think the red Amaryllis was shy and just had to wait until the white had gone over Helene ;)
    They are gorgeous blooms - very popular at this time of the year.

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    1. Thanks Angie, I still have hopes the white one will produce another flower stalk, time will tell!

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  10. I didn't realise that amaryllis' flowers are so big! Really stunning!

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    1. Yes, they are huge, I don’t think I know of any other flowers that big, apart from some hibiscus flowers.

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  11. I love Amaryllis and yours are gorgeous, Helene! My favourite is the deep red one.
    You have such patience - I grow them, let them bloom and out they go! I must be the Grass Is Always Greener kind of person - always on to something new.

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    1. I love a challenge!
      If something is difficult to do I just have to have a go…I grow lilies and cyclamens from seed and make Bonsai trees, I guess that’s the epitome of gardening patience :-)

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  12. I've received Amaryllis bulbs/plants from people as gifts and enjoyed them, but I've never tried to save them. Like Poinsettias, they seem a little time and labor-intensive--especially in my climate. But they're incredibly beautiful. I'm imagining your cheery kitchen now and smiling. :) I see your Orchids are doing well, too. I'm surprised your cat doesn't eat them. I have to put any indoor plants way up high or stay with my cats constantly when they're in a room with plants. One cat eats them, and the other one uses the pots as a litter box. (Too much information, I know.) So I will enjoy your beautiful Amaryllis plants from afar! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks Beth, they are beautiful plants and although I would never bother with saving a poinsettia I don’t think the work involved with getting amaryllis to re-bloom is too much trouble. You just plop the pot in a sunny bed in your garden when summer comes and leave it there until it start losing its leaves in the autumn, then take the bulb out of the pot and clean off the soil. The issue then is of course where to store it. It doesn’t have to be outside, I just do that because I don’t have a cellar. It could be anywhere where it’s dark, frost free and around 5-10C so a fridge (without fruit) is good or any other storage area. You can store them there for as long as you want – for months even, but at least 6 weeks. And then you just take them out some weeks before you want them to flower.

      I am surprised one of your cats eat your houseplants, my cat is not interested in any of my houseplants and he hasn’t crawled up into the pots since he was a very small kitten – a long time ago :-)

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  13. They are gorgeous. I had some a few years ago and gave them away because I had no luck with them. This past Christmas I received one as a gift, and I am determined to work with it to get it to bloom again. Thanks for all the how-to details. I am hoping I have better luck this time.

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    1. Good luck this time!
      I didn’t write anything about fertilisers, perhaps I should have, but amaryllis need the same amount of fertilisers over the summer as all your other ordinary plants in the garden, so give them a dash when you give the rest. Then there really isn’t much more to it then find a cool place to store them for a while :-)

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  14. These are so beautiful!! Amaryllis hate my kitchen and I don't have anywhere else to put them where they'll receive enough light and not be knocked over by dogs. But maybe I'll try again. :o)

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    1. Amaryllis doesn’t actually need much light once they have started to produce a stalk and certainly not when in flower, they will flower for much longer if kept away from direct sunlight. My kitchen is definitely dark and dingy and they don’t even get to stay on the window sill as they are too big for that. But after flowering the amaryllis will prefer as much sunlight as possible, so cut the stalks off and move them near a window until night time temperatures are above 12 C (53F), then move them outside for the summer in a sunny spot.

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  15. Your amaryllis bulbs are so pretty! I was given one for Christmas a few years ago, but I need to put it in the basement for a while so it will go dormant and bloom again. I just left it in our sunroom. The white blossoms look so pure.

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    1. Yes, you could try that, although you will get a very late flowering then, and possibly not enough time for the bulb to store enough nutrition for next year’s flowering before autumn comes. You might want to just leave it for now, let the plant continue to store nutrition and possibly put it outside during the summer, and in the autumn you stop feeding and watering, let it die down and then put it in the basement. If you plan it well you could have it in flower again for Christmas :-)

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  16. Helene, When Myra and I first married way back in 1966 we lived in the attics in an old tenement block. The first house plants which Myra purchased were amaryllis and a tub of blue Hyacinths. The beautiful amaryllis, a red one like you show us today and the overwhelming fragrance of the Hyacinth helped me make the decision that no matter how hard I had to work someday we would have a house with a garden.

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    1. Thanks for the story Alistair, I am happy you achieved your goal :-)
      When I was 16 I went to college and I lived very far from my parents, renting a room and I also had hyacinths (pink and white!) in my room the first Easter I was there. It was the first plant I bought for myself too!

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  17. I had two well flowering amaryllis last winter. Now they have yellow leaves and they are preparing to "winter": I will put them in cool and shady place.But I'm nor sure if I need to store them without pots or leave them in soil?
    Your white one is stunning, Helene! The red amaryllis looks like mine.
    Have a nice week!

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    1. Hi Nadezda, according to the information I found you could choose either of these methods, but I have always taken the bulbs out of the pots and cleaned the roots up and stored them like that. I have often cut off up to half of the roots if they were really long, as they don’t need to be more than about 15cm long during the storage period. Good luck with getting them to hibernate, if you start now you should have some nice flowers again by June/July :-)

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    2. Thank you Helene, I'll do as you advise.
      I'm writing a post about fuchsias and want to make a link to your blog as you grow up many of them. Do you agree?

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    3. Yes, of course you can link to my blog Nadezda, you don’t have to ask for permission :-)

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  18. Good to info to know - I have an amaryllis that I'd like to keep for next year. I had one several years ago that I stuck in my garage and forgot about after it bloomed. Amazingly, it grew leaves the next year with no watering for me! It didn't bloom, but I kept it. I eventually planted it in the yard before I moved, though I'm not sure if it's quite warm enough there for it!

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    1. Sometimes plants can amaze us after the wildest neglect –and plants we fuzz over and do everything according to instructions might fail us. It just happens!

      The reason why your amaryllis didn’t flower after having been stuck in the garage for that long was probably because it had not been able to get sunlight and store nutrition, so what was left in the bulb was just about enough to produce some leaves. Amaryllis can tolerate quite low temperatures but they must absolutely not get frost.

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  19. Fantastic pictures of a fantastic flower, I manage to flower mine for at least a couple of years but they usually fizzle out probably because of something I have done or, for that matter, not done!

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    1. Thanks Rick, if I was going to take a guess, I would say lack of sunshine during the summer would be the most common reason for Amaryllis to fizzle out, it cost effort to put on a flower show like that every year so top-up during summer must be top quality.

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  20. Apart from the unfortunate incident of the waterlogging your approach obviously works well to keep them from year to year so I'd continue in the same vein. They're actually late spring / early summer flowering in cool but frost free climates. Beautiful plants. Have you seen 'Papillon'? That's one to covet.

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    1. Thanks John, I had to do a search for the one you suggested, I assume you mean Hippeastrum ‘Papilio’? I can see many people misspelling it to Papillion, but those that sell this amazing bulb spell it 'Papilio'. What an amazing flower! I think I must include it on my wish list :-)

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    2. Yes, 'Papilio'. I blame the keyboard!

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  21. I was given an amaryllis in a glass container on the 18th December, and on the box it says "needs no water there is enough water in the bulb to sustain growth" but there are no other instructions. It is growing,it has 2 stems, one is about 14" and the other about 8" no flowers as yet. It is in my kitchen not in direct sunlight. It doesn't have soil, it just looks like green moss. Will it be ok without water? and what do I do once the flowers die?

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    1. I have seen those amaryllis’ that don’t need water or compost, but I have never had one myself. I suggest you just follow the instructions included – it will probably flower soon. Once it is finished flowering most people just throw them away. If you want to try to keep it you need to carefully peel away the wax and plant the bulb in compost. I have never done that with those waxed amaryllis so I can only say have a go – if you succeed then great, if not, then at least you tried.

      Put the bulb in a pot just slightly bigger than the bulb, with 1/3 of the bulb above the compost level – just like amaryllis bulbs should be planted. Put it somewhere bright but not in baking sunshine as long as it is indoors. Once all risk of frost is over you can put the pot outside if you have a garden and give the amaryllis fertiliser with the rest of your plants, just general fertiliser once a fortnight or so. It’s better to give too little than too much! Make sure the pot is in the sun when outside, it will need as much sun as possible, water well and keep moist. Then follow the instruction in my blog post.
      Good luck!

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    2. thanks Helene, there were no instructions, just doesn't need water as there is enough water in the bulb to support its growth, and should flower within 4-6 weeks. It's growing fast, and I hope for flowers sometime soon. Thanks again, I will follow your advice.

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    3. Hi Helene, just an update on my amaryllis plant, I have 2 stems with 2 red flowers coming through! I think the larger stem is going to produce 2 blooms, the smaller one hasn't opened properly yet, getting excited now, I didn't think it was ever going to bloom. :)

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    4. How nice to hear from you again – and with such good news :-)
      I am sure your amaryllis is going to be amazing once it is in full flower, make sure to take some photos as it won’t flower for very long unfortunately, it will be over before you know it. But you can save the bulb and get a new stalk next year of you follow my advice.
      Good luck!

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  22. Hi Helene, the latest update on my Amaryllis. I got 4 beautiful flowers on the tall stem, and two on the smaller one, then one morning, the small stem had drooped over and the stem felt hollow, but the one flower left was still alive,so I supported it by binding it to the tall stem, and then it produced another flower,with a still hollow stem!My husband said the bulb looked shrivelled, and suggested watering it, so I filled a syringe with room temperature water and squirted it down by a gap in the bulb. Not only did this work, the bulb is now giving off another stem! and it looks healthy, the hollow stem also has 2 more buds, but whether these will flower I don't know. It's been a bit of a roller coaster with this plant, it is certainly a talking point in our house. I will keep you posted. I don't seem to be able to send you any photos on here so I have found you on Facebook and have sent you a friend request, I hope you don't mind. All the best Wendy xx

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    1. Hi Lizzie – or are you Wendy? I have just confirmed your friend request :-)
      I am so happy you got flowers after all, patience pays! As for the hollow stems, that’s how Amaryllis stems are, but you don’t really notice they are hollow until they go soft and droopy. I have never had those bulbs without water, I can understand it was thirsty – not sure if I would ever buy any of those waxed ones but I think from memory you got it as a present? Once all the flowers have gone just peel the wax carefully off and plant the bulb is some compost with the bulb 1/3 above compost level. Take care not to break off any of the leaves as it needs those leaves to produce food for next year’s flowering. Place the pot with the bulb in a sunny windowsill for now, and when all frost danger is over, put it outside. Make sure to water regularly but only when the compost is dry, too much water will make the bulb rot. The bulb will need lots of sunshine but keep it away from the sun at midday in the hottest part of the summer. And it will like some general fertiliser, once or twice a month. Take care not to give too much, better too little than too much. And leave it outside until the leaves have gone yellow and fallen off. See my post above about how to store bulbs so you get flowers next year :-)
      Amaryllis’ are great fun, I am glad to hear it is a talking point in your house, good luck with the next chapter!

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    2. Yes I am Wendy Helene, Lizzie is just a user name the site asked for. Thanks for the advice, I will follow your advice
      Wendy

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