Amaryllis and poinsettia may be rivals for the most popular holiday floral choice, but for elegance and versatility, amaryllis is the clear winner. Unlike a “one and done” poinsettia plant, these bulbs will get bigger with time and as a cut flower, they make a striking addition to floral arrangements. Here a few interesting facts about this plant:
- It is also known as Hippeastrum. The taxonomy and nomenclature on this species is complicated and still debated. Most growers just go with the name amaryllis.
- Breeders have developed more than 600 named varieties.
- In nature, they bloom in spring and summer.
- They reproduce by growing a “daughter” bulb next to the “mother bulb”. This daughter bulb will take three to five years to reach marketable size.
- They can be grown from seed but take about 6 years to mature and flower.
- They are tender perennials and hardy outdoors in zones 9 to 11.
- A well cared for amaryllis can live for 75 years.
Care and Bloom Time
When choosing or ordering a bulb, you can select either a Christmas flowering variety (grown in South Africa) or a winter bloomer, usually from the Netherlands. If potting your own bulbs, use a well draining pot with no more than an inch between pot and bulb; they flower better when pot bound. Water once and not again until green growth appears.
Once growth takes off, water regularly and provide support as needed. After the flowers fade, cut them off to prevent seed formation but leave the stem to feed the bulb.If you want to display several amaryllis together, it’s best to use small individual pots which can be placed in a cachepot or basket and covered with moss.
Use as Cut Flower
If a bloom stem becomes too tall, cut it and then create a simple but dramatic floral arrangement (but keep the pot going for a second or third stem). These are one of the best cut flowers available and will last at least 10 days. If the bulb is grown for cut flower use, the best time to cut a stem is just as all of its blooms have begun to show color. Both short and tall stalks can be incorporated into designs and individual flowers look lovely in a bud vase. One can imagine how nicely amaryllis could be incorporated into a Valentine’s Day arrangement.
Saving the Bulb
An amaryllis can be held over for bloom the following year by taking it outside when nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees and returning it indoors before frost. To actually time the dormancy and bloom is a more complicated process that is simply TMI for this article and requires much more effort than your Horticulture Chair is likely to undertake! This is one I leave to the experts.
You can buy your amaryllis in a ready to go pot from Heinen's, or order a more exotic variety and create your own multi-bulb presentation. The catalogs now offer them in luscious new colors (think salmon, maroon)and striking combinations. So don’t limit yourself to the cherry red blooms in a Christmas pot. With a little planning and imagination, these plants can provide a long lasting and elegant indoor floral display that can brighten your home long after the holidays.