You may have acquired a few house plants over the Christmas season, or maybe Santa will bring a contribution soon. So, here are a few hints about the care of one of those additions to the family.
An amaryllis probably will come in a box with a small bag of dried potting soil and a pot. Sometimes the pot is attractive, but more often it is not something you will enjoy having around for some months.
So, look around and find a container of the right size. The kitchen is a good place to look for a cookie jar, small casserole dish, ice bucket or something similar.
If there is no drainage hole in the one you choose, use a cheap plastic one for planting then and sit this inside the more attractive vessel.
If you have potting soil in the garage or shed, use that instead of the stuff included, but be sure to warm it to room temperature first and give it a good soaking - preferably with rain water.
I have dipped water out of the rain barrels into cans, buckets and every large container that has been emptied for the winter, and I keep them on the back porch where they won't quite freeze. This water is so much better for indoor plants than tap water.
You don't want to use a large container because the bulb likes to be pot-bound.
About once and a half as wide as the bulb is best, which is probably 6-8 inches wide. Plant the bulb with one-third above the soil line. You do not need to add fertilizer.
You will need to have a support for the heavy flower heads eventually; I like to use a branching twig cut from a tree or shrub which can go in with the bulb. One year, I used a willow twig, which rooted and added some more green.
Or you can wait until the flower stem gets heavy and add a stake at that time.
Be sure the soil is damp when you plant the bulb, and then do not water again until you see some leaves begin to appear from the neck of the plant. Once growth has begun, you will need to water a couple of times a week because the top inch dries out.
Watering from the bottom is best. Just stand the pot in the sink or a bucket with water reaching about halfway up and give time for the water to be drawn up, but do not let it get soggy.
Once the flower(s) open, keep the plant out of direct sunlight and away from registers or radiators and you should have blossoms for a week or more.
When a flower dies, cut it off with its short stem so seeds do not form.
When all the flowers are spent, cut the flower stem back to about 3 inches from the bulb but do not touch the leaves. Pot and all can go outside in the spring in a sunny location, and bring it back inside before frost.
Cut off dead leaves and keep the plant in a cool, dim place such as an unheated basement until you see the green growth that tells you the cycle is beginning again.
An amaryllis is truly a gift that keeps on
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.