Q: Last year during the holidays I grew three amaryllis bulbs and really enjoyed the process. After they finished blooming I did cut out the stalk that held the flowers and then treated them like houseplants until now. I did have to cut the leaves down twice since they did get so long, but they still look healthy green. My question is, can I and how would I get them to flower for me again this year? – P.R., Albuquerque
First you’ll need a very sharp, clean pair of scissors and a cardboard flat filled with several layers of newspaper. This weekend – or at least very soon – I suggest you snip any strap leaves your bulbs are wearing down to about 3 inches tall from the top of the bulb. Then unpot the amaryllis bulbs, knocking off as much of the soil that could be surrounding the bulb and intertwined in the roots. Don’t go barbaric when doing the soil removal; be fairly gentle. If there is lots of soil still sticking among the roots and covering the bulbs, set it in the cardboard flat and allow it to rest for a couple of days. Then come back to finish the clean up of the bulb.
Now that they are tidied up, I want you to take a good look at the roots. Healthy, they should look fat and pretty darn white. Not at all grey-black yucky strings protruding from the bottom of the bulb. If you do find gross, stringy, soggy roots, you need to snip them away from the bulb. I’ve always snipped off all the roots to a length of about 3 inches long and snipped away any yucky roots as close as possible without damaging the bulb as I unpot initially, but if done within a few days, you’d be ok.
Set the root-tidied bulbs in the flat with several layers of newspaper. Not the slick ads mind you, the moisture absorbing newsprint. Next, get down your calendar and pick a day that you will – faithfully and consistently – look at and rearrange the bulbs. You are going to be a dedicated bulb inspector and rearranger for at least the next eight weeks.
The reason you rearrange them is so you’ll notice if they become mushy and they don’t make flat spots on themselves. It’s sometimes a good thing to remove the old newsprint and offer fresh newspapers too. Your aim is to keep the bulbs dry. No excess moisture at this point.
You’ll want to find a place in the home that will be cool while the bulbs are resting. I have an interior closet that is the perfect spot to have the bulbs rest. I’ve never refrigerated my amaryllis, but if you want to try, keep them in the vegetable crisper, on paper containers remembering to rearrange them weekly.
Now you get to tend the pots they were living in. Pitch the used soil. If you have gardens, sprinkle it there, or pour it on your outdoor containers. Make sure you keep the potsherds you placed in the bottom of the pot since they will be reused. Give the pots and the sherds a good washing in hot, soapy water. I usually do this process soon after the unpotting so everything is ready for the repot. I also purchase new potting soil, so I’ll be ready when the time comes. Now comes the timing element of the process.
Since the bulbs get to rest until, at the earliest, the end of October, you get to choose how soon you want them to start growing again. It takes about three to four weeks for a potted bulb to awaken and show a bloom stalk, so if you want one to grace the Thanksgiving table, re-plant by the end of October. If you want to have them in glorious bloom for the Christmas holidays, then you plant just after Thanksgiving. And as long as you’re staying vigilant with the rearranging and making sure the bulbs are staying cool and dry, you are in charge of when you have the amaryllis grace your world.
When you re-pot, make sure the bottom two-thirds of the bulb gets buried, so the soil offers enough support for the bulb. Keep the potted amaryllis dampened but not soggy, and in a warm, fairly brightly lit spot and voilÃ, your treasures should soon show off for you once again.
Happy Diggin’ In.
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to email@example.com.