It isn’t necessary to be a botanist to choose a good amaryllis bulb. A little botanical knowledge about amaryllis, however, ensures gardeners buy productive bulbs for a beautiful floral display. Amaryllis (botanically Hippeastrum) bulbs are easily coaxed into bloom indoors. Their easy-going nature and dramatic appearance make them a favorite living holiday decoration.
Each bulb produces one or two flower stalks, and each stalk produces two to five flowers that open in quick succession. The trumpet-shaped, lily-like flowers measure up to 6 inches long and 5 inches wide.
‘Red Lion’ is a common cultivar producing scarlet-colored flowers when planted indoors and carmine red-colored flowers when planted outdoors. ‘Apple Blossom’ is a white and salmon-pink cultivar. Visit a local garden center to find amaryllis in other colors.
Be aware not every amaryllis bulb blooms. It is critical to purchase bulbs with a visible flower bud to ensure that the bulb flowers.
On a vigorous bulb, the flower buds emerge before the leaves. If only leaves are coming out of the center of the bulb, don’t expect flower buds to follow. The buds emerge off center on the top of the bulb, one on each side of the neck. Flower buds are triangular, thicker than leaf buds, and have a faint line down the middle.
If your bulb is in a kit with growing medium, follow the directions in the kit. However, replace the plastic pot in kits with a ceramic pot. The heavier pot counterbalances the weight of the flowering bulb to prevent it from tipping over. Flower stalks may need staking.
Amaryllis are easy to maintain. Keep plants in bright indirect sunlight until blooming starts. Allow the top of the potting mix to dry before watering. Once in bloom, place the plant in moderate light to keep the flowers fresh. The potting mix should be moist but not wet. After the blooms fade, return the plant to bright indirect sunlight.
After the danger of frost is past, plant amaryllis bulbs outdoors in a spot that gets part to full sun. Expect them to bloom each year in mid-spring. When planting, place the top of the short neck just above the ground. Spread the thick white roots out in a fan at the bottom of the planting hole. Amaryllis tolerate a range of soil moisture conditions; however, amend sandy soils with compost before planting to help retain soil moisture.