The brilliantly colored, lilylike blossoms of the amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.) fill the room with reds, pinks and white, a lovely addition to the holiday centerpiece. Amaryllis bulbs sprout and bloom in water, making them a tidy addition to your windowsill garden.
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How to Grow Amaryllis
The amaryllis is a tender bulb, native to Central and South America. It can overwinter outside in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 and 10. Amaryllis bulbs grown in water don't need chilling or fertilizer. You can immediately place the bulb in a tall vase or shallow bowl with water.
A Tall Vase
Select a plump, firm bulb with no soft spots. Look at the bottom of the bulb and trim off any dead, brown or broken roots. Sterilize your scissors or pruners in a solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol to avoid spreading any fungi or diseases.
Find a tall, narrow vase for the amaryllis. Put 4 inches of clean, washed pebbles or marbles in the bottom of the vase.
The pebbles or marbles add weight to the vase, so it doesn't tip over as the amaryllis develops blossoms and foliage.
Fit the bulb into the vase, gently pushing it down until the roots are touching the pebbles or marbles. Add water to the vase until it is within 1 inch of the bulb and covering most of the roots.
Choose a wide, shallow bowl. Use pebbles or marbles to fill it one-half full.
Nestle one or more bulbs among the pebbles, carefully arranging the roots and adding more pebbles if necessary to support the bulbs.
Add water to just below the bottom of the bulbs but covering the roots.
Place the bulb in a cool, dim location, such as a garage or enclosed porch, and maintain it at 50 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks. Add more water as needed to maintain the water level.
Move the bulb and container to a warm location inside the house. Place it in bright, filtered light.
Add water to the vase or bowl regularly. The amaryllis will bloom within four to six weeks after being brought indoors.
When the Flowers Die
Generally, amaryllis bulbs are discarded after being forced in water. The bulb uses nearly all its energy in blooming. If you want to give it a go, however, cut the flower stalk and then carefully transplant the bulb in a loose, organically rich potting soil. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged.
Fertilize with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer monthly, or according to the manufacturer's directions. Apply 1 rounded teaspoon for every square foot of soil and scratch it lightly into the soil. Use a scant 1/2 teaspoon for a 6- to 8-inch flowerpot. Water thoroughly after applying fertilizer to the flowerpot.
Keep the amaryllis in a warm, brightly lit location until the foliage fades. As the leaves die, stop fertilizing and reduce watering until the bulb is in dry soil. Remove the leaves and place the flowerpot in a dark, cool room or garage. Water once every three weeks until new growth appears. Move the amaryllis into warm, brightly lit location. Begin watering and feeding the bulb as new leaves appear.
If you can save the bulb, it may not bloom for several years. It needs to build new energy before it can blossom again.