Tips for caring for amaryllis

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Amaryllis hippeastrum shortened to just amaryllis are sold near the holidays because of their ability to flower any time of year. It is a tender bulb that originates from South America. Its cousin the belladonna lily or as we affectionately call it in Kentucky “Naked Ladies” or a nicer version “Resurrection Lily” is also an amaryllis, which is native to South Africa. Obviously, the version we grow called “Naked Ladies” is hardy but sadly the larger flowered amaryllis is not. For the sake of this article an amaryllis is the large flowered nonhardy bulb type. We will have a discussion on “Naked Ladies” (I really need to start calling these plants something else) at a later date.
Amaryllis performs best at temperatures in the 70s, and needs this warm growth period to promote vegetative and floral growth. This growth period must be followed by a dormant period to promote flowering.  
When you buy an amaryllis bulb it has received its proper dormant period and is ready to be potted. Plant your amaryllis in any well-draining potting soil with a pH of 6-6.5. Make sure that your potting soil doesn’t contain pine bark, this may cause rot and pH problems. Choose any pot for your amaryllis, but make sure it has drainage holes. The biggest problem with amaryllis is rot, and a perpetually wet soil will cause problems. When you plant your bulb make sure 1/3 of the bulb is sticking above the soil line. This will help keep the chances of rot down.
After potting an amaryllis bulb water it thoroughly. Keep the medium moist but not wet; generally watering once a week is plenty. Also, don’t water over the nose of the bulb, water can get in the stem and cause a fungal problem.
Grow  amaryllis in a warm sunny window until it begins to flower then move it to the coolest area in your home to extend the life of the blooms.
Amaryllis is a heavy feeder and requires a good amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A slow release formula such as osmocote works really well or fertilize twice per month with any water soluble fertilizer. As the flowers fade remove them, when all the flowers are gone you can cut the flower stalk off just above the nose of the bulb.
The great thing about an amaryllis is that you can enjoy its flowers year after year. After an amaryllis finishes flowering place it again in a warm sunny windowsill. You can also put it outside in a partly shady area during summer. An amaryllis needs at least nine to 10 months of growing time before entering its dormancy period. It will generally grow until August or September after a Christmas flowering, you should then gradually stop watering it and allow it to go dormant. Keep it in a cool dry place and don’t water it. Amaryllis needs eight to 10 weeks of dormancy to set bud to flower again. After the required dormancy period water the amaryllis and begin the cycle again. If you have any horticulture questions give me a call at 859-336-7741, or like us on Facebook at:
Happy Thanksgiving!