The holidays are here and many of us will receive as a gift (or purchase for ourselves) a lovely amaryllis. These brilliant, large blooms give us lots of color and make spectacular statements on their coffee or end tables.
They put up a stalk with several flowers that mature individually.
Many will send up another stalk when the first one is done. At this point, most people will throw the bulb away thinking that the show is now over. Yet, with a few simple steps, these plants can be kept to bloom year after year for decades. Once the bloom has passed, cut the stalk off near the base. Place the plant in a sunny window and water well.
It helps to have a tray under the pot to catch any overflow of the water. Keep an eye on it and don't let it dry out — it will need water every two to four days. In the summer, you can place the plant outside in a sunny location, but this is not absolutely necessary.
In mid or late August, place the plant in a brown paper bag in a cool spot. A root cellar or other cool cellar is ideal. Don't cut the green off; it will wither on its own. Check it once a week and remove any leaves that are decomposing. Pull these off at the base and discard. Once all the leaves are gone, you can leave it alone until you want to replant it.
Mid-October to mid-November, it's time to bring the amaryllis out. Scrape off the top 1/3 to ½ of the soil and add it to the compost. Get some top quality potting soil and refill ½ of what you removed. Here it's best to add some bone meal or other flower food.
Next, fill in the rest of the soil to where it was full before. Return the plant to the sunny spot and water well. Keep an eye on the moisture and stake the stalk if it starts to droop. In five to seven weeks, you should have new blooms.
If you have more than one amaryllis, it's great to take them out of storage one at a time. Start in mid-October, wait two or three weeks and take out another one. Repeat the process until all of your amaryllis are in the sunny window. If you collect a number of them, you can have continuous blooms all winter long. This little bit of care can result in bright bits of color when the world outside is white or brown. It's well worth it.