Holiday amaryllis makes great landscape plant, too
Amaryllis can be planted into the landscape in spring and provide spring color for years to come.
--Allen Owings Photo
HAMMOND — Amaryllis is a popular holiday plant. Bulbs are commonly available from November to late December. Forcing them to bloom during winter is not difficult, and the results are beautiful.
Amaryllis bulbs purchased now should be planted into pots using a well-drained potting soil and positioning the bulb’s neck above the soil surface. The pot should be large enough so that there is about 1 inch of clearance between the pot rim and the bulb.
Clay or plastic pots may be used, but because an amaryllis in bloom can be somewhat top-heavy, clay pots provide a little more stability.
You also can buy amaryllis bulbs pre-planted in pots and ready to grow — or even growing.
However you obtain them, once they’re planted, place the pot in a sunny window (the more sun the better) and keep the soil evenly moist. When the flower stalk begins to emerge, rotate the pot about one-half turn every few days, so it will grow straight. Otherwise, it will grow toward the window and look awkward. Also keep in mind that if you provide your amaryllis with too little light, the flower stalk will grow excessively tall and may even fall over.
Flowering generally occurs in late December or early January from bulbs planted this time of year. And some large bulbs will produce two-flower stalks.
Sometime after the flower spike has emerged, leaves will grow from the top of the bulb. After the flowers have faded, cut the stalk at the point where it emerges from the bulb, but do not cut any foliage. Keep the plant inside and continue to provide plenty of sun, or the leaves will be weak. Water it regularly when the soil begins to feel dry, but fertilizing is not really necessary during this time.
In March or April, you may plant your bulbs in the garden where they will make long-lived plants that bloom in spring. Amaryllis planted in the garden this spring will get into their natural cycle and bloom in the following springs.
Amaryllis plants thrive in any reasonably good garden soil with adequate drainage. A spot that receives part sun (about four to six hours of direct sun early followed by afternoon shade) is the ideal location. But I have seen amaryllis thrive in full sun to part shade.
Once planted and established, amaryllis can be left alone for several years. A light sprinkling of general-purpose fertilizer in April and watering during unusually dry weather is all they need.
Beds with amaryllis should be mulched with an inch or two of pine straw, leaves or other similar material to help reduce weeds and conserve moisture. Increase the thickness of the mulch to 3-4 inches during winter to help protect the bulbs from freeze damage.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond.