Growing Amaryllis Bulbs
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Q: I received an amaryllis bulb for the holidays. How do I care for it?
A: There is a chance that you may receive an amaryllis for Christmas. Often amaryllis bulbs are sold as a gift kit that includes the bulb, soil media, container, and growing directions. An amaryllis’ normal bloom time is in late spring to early summer. However if you receive one of these gifts during the holidays, you can go ahead and plant it because the bulbs being sold for the holiday season have been forced to bloom during the winter. These bulbs have been exposed to a certain amount of cool, dry conditions to trick or force the bulb into blooming during this time of year.
Growing amaryllis bulbs indoors can be an easy, fun way to bring the outdoors inside during the winter months. If you purchase or receive a kit, there are usually directions that can guide you in planting the bulb. Amaryllis bulbs are large but you will only need the container to be slightly larger than the bulb. The container that you use will need holes in the bottom to allow for adequate drainage. Plant the bulb so that about 1/3 of the bulb is above the soil. Place the plant in a well-lighted area that receives a few hours of direct sunlight during the day. An amaryllis will grow and flower best at warmer temperatures in the range of 65° to 75°F. An amaryllis bulb does not like to remain in wet soils for a long period of time, so only water the plant when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Watering once a week will typically be enough water for the plant to grow well.
It will take 3 to 6 weeks to start seeing flowers from your bulb. Once flowering starts, you can fertilize using a liquid or soluble fertilizer. Remove flowers once they fade by cutting the stalk off just above the bulb. Remove leaves only after they have turned yellow and started dying back.
So you have enjoyed growing an amaryllis indoors, now what? An amaryllis can grow outdoors in hardiness zones 7 to 8 or higher. Wayne County is right on the edge of this zone being in a 7B to 8A hardiness zone. An amaryllis bulb can grow outdoors in our area but extra care may need to be given in the winter by applying a thick layer of mulch over the bulbs, especially during a colder-than-normal winter. Some may choose to keep the bulb in a container that can be brought in during cold temperatures to ensure its survival each year.
After your amaryllis stops flowering indoors, keep it in a sunny location until the risk of frost passes. Once the chance of frost has passed, usually mid-April, you can plant the bulb outside. Plant the bulb outdoors the same way you planted it indoors, leaving 1/3 of the bulb above the ground. Mulch around the bulb to control weeds and conserve soil moisture. The bulb will continue to grow and will go back to its regular bloom cycle of blooming in late spring.
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Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. Horticulture program information can be found at //wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/. Forward any questions you would like answered from this week’s column to Jessica.Strickland@waynegov.com.