Last updated on December 2nd, 2011
THE DON JUAN OF THE WINTER WINDOW GARDEN is surely the King’s Court Amaryllis (Hippeastrum). Here is a plant that never fails to seduce, each bulb pushing up one or more sturdy stalks bearing three to six giant flowers which are pure white, deep red, apple blossom pink, or crimson-orange (like ‘Desire,’ pictured above). Under good culture, amaryllis will rebloom year after year:
The bulbs usually need at least six weeks for thorough root development, and then three or four more weeks to perfect the flowers. If these do not appear and only a disappointing amount of leaf growth develops, the amaryllis can usually claim one of three alibis — it was not sufficiently cared for during the summer months; it has been planted too deeply, or it has been given such an oversize pot that all its energies have gone to filling the container with roots.
Thus, flowering-success begins with a clay pot which is only one or two inches larger than the diameter of the bulb. A six-inch pot is usually right. Place a piece of broken pottery over the drainage hole, then add a quantity of light, fluffy soil. Set the bulb high enough so that its top half rests above the surface of the soil.
Next, water well, and permit this tropical traveler to make its roots in a dark, cool place (50-60 degrees). During the following six to eight weeks little watering will be required, probably not more than once every 10 days.
After roots have sufficiently filled the pot, the plant will send up a flower bud. When this appears move the amaryllis to a sunny window. Water sparingly until the bud is 4 inches tall, then be more generous as growth indicates a greater need for moisture. Begin feeding the plant, too. I feed mine with every watering, but I use only a pinch (a 1/4 teaspoon) of an all-purpose plant food per gallon of water.
When, at last, every blossom has faded, promptly cut off the flowering stalks. Your amaryllis is now a handsome, strappy-leaved houseplant that you must care for as faithfully as when it was in flower. For it is now and through the summer — when it is set in the semi-shaded garden — that the bulb is producing the embryo blooms which you are depending on for next year.
Consequently, continue to provide food and water until September first. Then lay the pot on its side (to avoid rainfall), and let the soil dry out. When the foliage turns yellow and becomes loose, remove it, and bring the plant indoors to a dark and cool place. Water will not be needed more than once every three weeks during this well-deserved winter rest.
Check the plant occasionally from November on, although signs of growth are not likely until January. When the green point appears, scrape away the top soil and replace with a fresh mixture.
So cared for, your amaryllis will provide an abundance of huge, lily-like blooms year after year.
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