From Mélie’s Garden
One of my favorite Christmas presents to give is an Amaryllis bulb. It doesn’t look like much on arrival and my Godson wondered if I had brought them a large planted onion. But after a week or two, a green stem will appear growing out of the center of the bulb and a magnificent flower will follow to brighten up the dreary days in January.
Dr. Uduard Frederich Poepping discovered the Amaryllis plant growing in the Chilean mountains in 1828. The plants are Hippeastrum bulbs and part of the Lilium family. Another species is found in South Africa. Both varieties made their way to Holland where the bulbs were hybridized and named after the shepherdess Amaryllis in Greek Mythology. They have become popular to grow because they have the ability to produce beautiful flowers inside in mid-winter.
If you have received an Amaryllis unplanted, place it in a pot that is a bit bigger than the bulb and fill it with regular potting soil mix. Only the bottom half of the bulb should be in the soil. You can also grow the bulb in pebbles and water in a flower container, but I have always had better luck planting it in a pot, I think the soil provides more nourishment. Keep the soil slightly damp and after a week or two, a large green stem will appear out of the center of the planted bulb. The stem can grow up to be almost a foot high. It is therefore, a good idea to put a stake into the pot to help support the stem and keep it growing straight because it will always lean towards the light. Turning the pot is also helpful. A glorious flower will eventually appear and last for week or two. Once the flower has faded, cut down the stem and often another one will emerge and produce an additional flower. Usually, after two flowers, the bulb will start to grow leaves. These leaves will feed the bulb in order to create flowers for next year.
Last summer I took my amaryllis bulb out of its pot and planted it in my vegetable garden with a bit of fertilizer in the hole and much to my surprise another flower appeared in mid summer! Once that flower was finished blooming, I cut back the stem and left the bulb with its green leaves in the ground until the fall. After it got a bit colder in September, I dug up the bulb and put it into a shopping bag and put the bag in my shed. The leaves died back and in late November, I remembered the bulb and brought it inside and replanted it. Now in early January, a new stem has appeared and even a couple of little baby bulbs along the side. I know the baby bulbs are too little to produce flowers, but the larger bulb definitely seems to be back in business again and it will be interesting to see if the flower will be as nice as the ones the bulb produced last year.
It is important to buy good quality Amaryllis bulbs and I have always gotten mine from John Scheepers www.johnscheepers.com. They sell many magnificent varieties that produce single and double blooms.