How to prepare an amaryllis for a Christmas time show
Ready, set, go. Just as soon as you have new amaryllis bulbs, pot them up, and in a few months, the spectacular, colorful trumpets will unfold.
With luck, you’ll have blooms by Christmas time.
Keep cool. Amaryllis bulbs flower best and most quickly after experiencing a cool period at the end of summer. So find a location where temperatures remain below 60 degrees but above freezing, such as in an unheated basement or garage, perhaps even outside for a while, depending on your climate. This cool period sets the stage for the flower buds, already formed within the bulbs, to open. During their cool period, the plants won’t need any water.
Rest period is over. After about eight weeks of cool neglect, the bulb is refreshed. When you want flowers, offer warmth, light and water. The plant needs only a bit of water to get started growing, then increasing amounts when growth proceeds in earnest. Blossoms will unfold within four to five weeks at temperatures hovering around 70 degrees, more quickly at warmer temperatures and more slowly at cooler ones.
Preparing for next year. After blossoms have come and gone, it’s time again to start preparing an amaryllis for the following winter’s blooms. Those flowers unfold from buds that form deep within the bulbs during spring and summer, so the better the growth during the warm months, the better the flowers the next winter. Your reward is one flower bud for every four to six leaves your bulb grows. Spur leaf growth with plenty of water, warmth, fertilizer and light.
Repot the bulb if it’s getting cramped in its pot; tease some of the old soil away from the outside of the root ball, then pack the plant into a larger pot with fresh potting soil. An amaryllis bulb is prone to rotting, so it should be set with only its bottom half in the soil, and the potting soil should be well-drained. A bulb can go for three or four years without repotting so long as there is an inch or so of space between the bulb and the rim of the pot.
When warm weather reliably settles in come spring, move your amaryllis outdoors to a partially shaded location. You can ease your watering chores by plunging the pot, if it is unglazed clay, up to its rim in the ground to absorb moisture from surrounding soil. Or, tip the rootball out of the pot and temporarily plant the bulb outdoors.