Amaryllis are in season now (spring)and are starting to flower. Their large trumpet shaped flowers come in a number of colours from dark reds to yellows and even zebra stripes in red and white.
These amazing bulbs are normally found in pots but can also be planted in the ground where they grow very well.
They are very easy to plant and grow but to keep them at their best there are a few things one should do.
How to plant an Amaryllis bulb in a pot.
Although any size pot will do your amaryllis will look better in a pot that is just slightly larger than the bulb you are planting.
The pot must have a drainage hole and the soil you will be planting the bulb in must drain quickly. Test the soil before planting the bulb and if the water seems to run straight through the pot, the soil is fine. If your soil is slightly clayey put some river sand on top of the soil and then plant the bulb on top of the sand filling.
When one plants flowering bulbs you normally place the bulb under the soil in the pot, this however is not the case with Amaryllis. Bulbs should be planted with the shoulder or the top third of the bulb above the soil.
When placing the bulb in the pot let its roots hang down and then fill the soil in around them. Press the soil down to get rid of air pockets.
Once planted the bulb should be watered regularly every 4 to 5 days. If roots are left to dry out the consequence will be that the bulb will not flower that year. Do not pour water over the bulb as it does not enjoy a bath. Pour water into the pot in the gap between the bulb and the pot
Place your potted amaryllis in a light, warm position and rotate the pot frequently to prevent the stem bending towards the light.
Amaryllis can also be successfully grown in the ground. Use the same planting procedure as above ensuring that there is a good mixture of soil and compost and that the soil will drain quickly. Once in the ground throw about three centimetres of compost/mulch over the bulb to keep the soil underneath moist and the temperature constant.
In the ground or outdoors Amaryllis are prone to attacks by snails and slugs so protect them by using snail baits or organic slug/snail repellents.
Although amaryllis flower in spring they can be easily manipulated to flower later. To do this you need to buy new bulbs which are placed in a well perforated brown paper bag to protect them from coming into contact with food in the fridge where they are to be stored. The fridge's temperature should be around 5 degrees centigrade.
Bulbs should not be frozen so don't put them in the freezer.
To get the amaryllis to flower when you need them you should start calculating at the date you need the flowers and work back for five or six weeks to the date that the bulbs should be planted depending on the season. The bulbs should then be planted and hopefully in five or six weeks time you will have the beautiful blooms you were looking for.
How to keep your Amaryllis in flower year after year.
It requires some planning to get your amaryllis to flower every year. The proceure is to wait for your Amaryllis flower to fade and then you should cut the stalk of the flower at about 3 cm above the bulb. Keep watering the bulb and feed it with a liquid fertiliser on a regular basis. The plant will continue to grow and produce new leaves during spring and summer. By allowing this growth you are strengthening the plant and providing the bulb with new energy for the blooms that will follow.
From mid August onwards one should start watering the bulbs less and allow the foliage to die back as the pot dries out. Once dry lift the bulb out of the pot
and store in a cool dark and dry place for a minimum period of eight weeks. About six weeks before you want your amaryllis to flower take it out of its storage place and repot the bulb in new potting soil and resume watering. Keep water to a minimum at first and as the foliage begins to grow water more
often. Within five to six weeks of this procedure your Amaryllis should start blooming again.
To keep your Amaryllis flowering for years use the same procrdure every year.
Amaryllis normally flower around Christmas time in South Africa. To get your bulbs to flower earlier or later you should adjust the procedure accordingly.
Ie. Start drying the bulb earlier in the year if you want flowers in October. The same time periods will apply, just start earlier or later.