Care of Amaryllis (a.k.a Hippeastrum) Plants
Ray Bosmans, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland Extension
This beautiful plant is an all time favorite holiday season plant. The bloom is a spectacular flower six inches across with two to four blossoms produced on tall sturdy stems. Each flower can last two weeks, sometimes longer. Blossom colors can range from red, yellow, pink and white. The amaryllis commonly sold is correctly called Hippeastrum. Hippeastrum is native to South America; the true Amaryllis is from South Africa and is not commonly sold. Both are in the plant family, Amaryllidaceae.
Hippeastrums are usually sold in a dormant state ready to grow in a gift box kit complete with peat moss and a pot. All one needs to do is plant it and place it in a sunny window. Keep it watered according to the instructions on the package and in about three weeks enjoy the gorgeous blossoms that emerge. The bulb should be watered sparingly until the flower stalk emerges. After the flower stalk is up more frequent watering is needed.
Hippeastrum will grow to about 24 inches tall and when properly cared for may live for several years. There are many hybrids bred for larger more colorful blossoms. Just like the bulbs grown in gardens outdoors these tropical bulbs also have a rest period when the leaves will dry up and are shed.
Light and Watering Requirement:
Hippeastrums require bright light during the active growth period indoors. A symptom that the light is too weak is spindly floppy leaves which will weaken the bulb and reduce or stop its ability to bloom the following year. Growing in bright sunlight is the single most important factor for repeat bloom year after year.
After the active growth period is over, reduce the frequency of watering. This will prompt dormancy to begin and the leaves will turn yellow and wither. After the leaves have completely died, trim them off and keep the bulb completely dry. Light is not required while the bulb is in dormancy. After a couple of months of dormancy new growth, which is a new flower bud, will emerge.
To help keep the bulb strong and vigorous, fertilization is recommended after flowering. Select a fertilizer labeled for houseplants and follow the instructions.
A healthy vigorously growing bulb will produce young bulbs around the base (where the roots originate from the bulb). These can be detached and planted to grow into new plants. They will require a few years to reach minimum flowering size of 3-4 inches.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Home and Garden News.
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