Dakota gardener: Amaryllis is the ‘Wow!’ flower

Tom Kalb
North Dakota State University Extension

“Wow! Look at that flower!”

That’s what everyone says when they see an amaryllis.

Amaryllis is easy to grow and has spectacular blooms. It is one of the most popular gifts for Christmas and widely available at garden centers.

Treat yourself to some holiday magic and buy a bulb for yourself. Here are some tips to maximize the wow factor:

Start by getting a huge bulb. Go to your garden center or go online and buy the biggest bulb you can find. Expect to pay about $15 to $25. Big bulbs will send up more than one flower stalk and your amaryllis will bloom for weeks. Less expensive bulbs sold in kits at big-box stores are good, but will send up only one flower stalk.

Grow your amaryllis in a heavy pot. Amaryllis can grow more than 30 inches. Use a stable pot that won’t tip over.

When you plant the bulb, keep a third of it above the soil line. You should have an inch gap of potting soil between the bulb and the rim of the pot.

Jumpstart the bulb. Amaryllis bulbs can be slow to sprout. Place the potted bulb in a warm spot such as on a seed starter mat or a radiator to awaken it.

Give your amaryllis lots of sunshine. Once it starts growing, move the pot to a sunny window. Be prepared for action. You’ll swear it grows so quickly you can actually hear it grow. The plant will lean toward the sun as it grows, so rotate it weekly to keep it symmetrical.

Get ready to be amazed. Wait until you see the giant blooms — they are magnificent! Amaryllis flowers come in shades of red, pink, orange and white. Some have double petals, and some have stripes on the petals. Whatever color you choose, be prepared to be dazzled.

Once it begins to bloom, lengthen the bloom time by placing your plant in a bright, cool (60-70 degree Fahrenheit) spot away from direct sunlight.

Some gardeners pluck the stamens that come out of the blooms. This prevents pollen from dropping onto the petals and causing them to decay. I think the stamens add to the beauty of the flower and I leave them alone.

Once the flowers fade and this year’s display is over, we need to recharge the bulb so it blooms again next year. It’s easy. Trim the flower stalk down to a couple of inches from the base. Place your amaryllis near a sunny window. The bulb is exhausted, and we need the leaves to re-fill the bulb with energy. Water and fertilize it regularly all summer.

When the foliage begins to yellow in early fall, the bulb is refilled.

Clip off the leaves and place the bulb in a cool (50 to 60 degree Fahrenheit), dark spot to rest for eight weeks. A basement is a good place for this period of time.

Repot the bulb in early November. New shoots will emerge, and your holidays next year will be filled with dazzling beauty.

Amaryllis is easy to grow and has magnificent blooms.