Red amaryllis is a favorite flower of the winter holiday season and it’s so easy to grow. Filling your home with red amaryllis is a festive and inexpensive way to decorate for the holidays. These lovely flowers also make ideal Christmas gifts for everyone on your list. Use these tips for growing red amaryllis for the Christmas season and enjoy the splash of living color these lovely Christmas Lilies give.
“Amaryllis” is actually a name given to two different genus of flowering bulb plants, one from South Africa (Amaryllis), the “true amaryllis”, and one from South America (Hippeastrum). The red amaryllis that most people are familiar with, are actually red cultivars of Hippeastrum. Besides red, there are many other Hippeastrums with different colors of their own. Confusion between these two genus of bulbous plants have long been a source of debate between botanists, but we won’t go into that here; instead we’ll learn how to plant and grow these beautiful red flowers for the year end festive season!
Amaryllis may be bought as bare or planted bulbs which somewhat resemble large onions. Select your red amaryllis from a reputable retailer. There are many types of “red” amaryllis cultivars available now, with names like Temptation, Double Dream, Monaco, Samba, Fantasy, etc. Pick the one you like best. Look for bulbs that are firm and dry to the touch with have no visible signs of injury. The larger the bulb, the more flower stalks it is able to grow.
Use a 6-8 inch heavy ceramic or clay pot for growing your amaryllis. Remember that amaryllis are top-heavy with long flower stalks, so a lightweight plastic container will probably turn over when the plant is in full bloom.
You can set a plastic container inside a heavier ceramic container to make the container look more festive. Don’t cover a plastic container with gift wrap because it will impede the drainage and cause the soil to remain soggy. Good drainage from the soil is important, so make sure the pot has adequate drainage holes. Also, narrow containers work best for growing amaryllis because you want the plant to be as pot-bound as possible.
How to Plant
Fill the container almost full of potting soil and create a 2-inch deep hole in the center of the potting soil. Place the red amaryllis bulb in the hole with the pointy side facing upwards.
Allow one-third of the pointed end of the bulb to remain visible above the potting soil level, and gently pack potting soil around the bulb. Moisten the potting soil after planting the bulb but do not saturate the soil at planting time. You can add some mulch over the soil as a protective covering.
Place the potted bulb in a bright location away from direct sunlight and drafts. A sunny window sill should work just nice. Do not water again until the bulb sprouts, then water sparingly, or when the top 2 inches of soil feels dry. Turn the pot every 4-5 days for even light exposure and to keep the plant growing straight.
Can amaryllis grow outdoors? Yes, but they should be brought indoors before the first frosts, as they are not able to tolerate frost or freezing temperatures.
Amaryllis should be fed during each watering time. Feed the plant with fertilizer that is low in nitrogen but high in phosphorous (at half the recommended strength) to encourage blooming.
It will take 4-5 weeks for your red amaryllis to bloom. The flowers can be enjoyed on the plant or cut off and used as cut flowers. Blooms will last about 3-weeks. The amaryllis bulb has enough food stored inside to keep the plant fed, so fertilizer is usually not needed (unless you want it to keep on blooming). Unlike other plants, amaryllis do not require a dormant period and will keep on blooming if allowed to continue growing.
Amaryllis can last for years if you keep the plant actively growing long after the blooming has ended. Keep your amaryllis in a sunny spot indoors after blooming. When the flowers have faded, prune them off. This prevents any seed formation which depletes the bulb. The flower stalk should be removed only after it has turned yellow.
Dormancy and Blooming
Amaryllis bulbs can be forced to go into dormancy aka hibernation. During dormancy, the plant rests and uses very little of their stored energy reserves, thus promoting the plant’s lifespan and re-blooming later on.
To force dormancy and re-blooming, put the plant in a cool and dark location at around 55°F or 13°C. Due to lack of light, the leaves will wither and dry up. Cut them off. Leave the bulb in the dark like this without even watering for 8-12 weeks. Inspect the bulb from time to time for new stalk growth during this period. If any new stalks appear, place the bulb back on the window sill, water it, and feed it like before. If nothing appears, do the same.
This process of dormancy is supposed to spur new blooming within 5-6 weeks, provided the bulb has enough energy. Dormancy also helps the plant to rest, and if you care for your red amaryllis well, you will get to enjoy its showy blooms for many years to come!
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