When gifting holiday plants, most people think of the ever popular poinsettia or Christmas cactus. Another choice that has been enjoying increasing popularity is the amaryllis. The big, showy flowers make a bold statement, are affordable, and can be brought back to bloom if treated properly.
Amaryllis bulbs are of the genus Hippeastrum and are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas. The secret to get your amaryllis to rebloom lies in big part to its summer care after flowering. While it is blooming, keep it in a cool location with diffused light and barely moist soil. Remove the faded flowers and stalks as soon as they are finished blooming but do not cut off the leaves. Set the pot in a sunny location and water as needed. Your amaryllis is now in its growth phase.
When warm weather arrives and all danger of frost is past, set the bulb in the container in the flower garden or on your deck or patio. If setting in the ground, keep the rim at ground level somewhat protected from wind and place it so that it receives morning light. Water the plant as needed and feed it every two weeks with a soluble houseplant fertilizer. This will help to produce a nice, strong healthy bulb.
If you want your amaryllis to bloom for the holidays, you will need to begin its dormant period in mid-August. Withhold water and relocate your plant to a cool (about 50 degrees), dry location. In the fall as colder weather sets in, gradually withhold water. When the foliage has died back, trim it off and place the bulb, still in the pot, in a cool, dry area. The bulb will need to rest for about six weeks before it reblooms. Do not water the bulb during the resting period.
When I am ready to force mine to bloom, I repot it into a little bit larger pot. I like to use a clay pot as the top can get large and heavy and if set in a plastic pot, it may tip over. Place the bulb in the soil with one third of the bulb above the soil line. When this is done, water the soil well so that the excess drains out the bottom. Place the pot in a warm, sunny location with temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees and wait for that beautiful flower to appear.
An amaryllis can be kept indefinitely and if provided with the proper care, the bulb will get larger and multiply over the years.
As always, Happy Gardening!