Monday, January 7, 2008

Amaryllis - Hippeastrum

Hippeastrum, commonly called amaryllis means "splendid beauty" or "pride." They originate from the Andes Mountains in South America. You may have used the red and white varieties of the flower to decorate during the holidays or you may have received a potted amaryllis as a gift. It is a beautiful winter flower that comes in many different colors, including pink, peach, and salmon. Amaryllis flowers into large trumpets, similar to a star with large blooming petals.

[images from Flickr, clockwise from top left: Kevin Law, k_staszko, Jean., Gobbo1000, Capucine D.]

Bulbed or cut, the flowers last a long time and are easy to care for. When they are used as cut flowers they will last around two weeks. Planted amaryllis will last about three weeks, maybe more, and will bloom again. Below ares some tips to care help make your amaryllis last as long as possible.

Care tips
Freshly Cut Amaryllis: For cut amaryllis, insert a thin stick into the hollow stem to provide support to the stem and help hold up the large flowering head. The added support should increase the vase life of the flower. Another suggestion is to buy them before they flower - still as a bud. The flower will bloom at home, reducing the chance of bruising the petals during transportation. However, if you buy amaryllis already bloomed, just take care with the flowering heads. When placing them down, before putting them in a vase, let the heads hang over the edge of the surface and be gentle with them.

Pre-Potted Amaryllis: For potted amaryllis, take care to keep the soil moist, but not wet. You do not want to over water the plant. Before blooming, the amaryllis prefers sunlight and room temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, once the flower blooms, its is better to keep it out of direct sunlight and in a slightly cooler spot to help the flower live longer. Fertilizer will help to keep the plant healthy. Once the flowers have faded, cut the stem about an inch or two from the base, and you might have a second stem grow with more flowers. Each stem should produce about four flowers.

Taking care of the bulbs: When all the stems and flowers have lived out their life, cut of the flower from the top of the stalk, and then when the stalk begins to fade, cut off the stalk right above the bulb nose. Continue watering and fertilizing. The leaves will turn yellow, they will need to be cut back about two inches from the top of the bulb. Now, it will be time to remove the bulbs from the pot and put it in a cool, about 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and dark spot for at least six to eight weeks.

Re-planting the bulbs. Before re-planting the bulbs, hydrate the roots, not the bulb base, by soaking them in warm tap water overnight. When re-planting, make sure to use a well-drained and sterile pot. Amaryllis like a tight-fit in their pot (about 1 inch between the bulb and the sides). Use a six inch pot, if you are planting one bulb in the pot. But, a larger one should be used for three to five bulbs. The top of the bulb should sit about one-third above the soil line. They should take about eight weeks to bloom.

Another method from Martha Stewart for encouraging a second round of blooming allows you to keep the bulbs in the pot, once cut about 2 inches above the bulb, just put the entire pot into a dark, cool spot for six to eight weeks. When ready, bring out the pot, cut off the dead foliage, out some fresh pot soil on top or re-pot completely with fresh potting soil, and water. Then, place the pot in a sunny place. Do not start watering until again until a new flower stalk starts to grow.

Here are some more links on the web about amaryllis and how to care for it:
  • Background information on amaryllis (Hippeastrum) from the UK Flowers and Plants Association and wikipedia.
  • Apartment Therapy: NY has some beautiful photographs of amaryllis "Exotica" in a beautiful salmon pink color.
  • An article from the Daily Telegraph in the UK, Amaryllis the power flower, provides tips for caring for cut and potted amaryllis.
  • More tips on growing amaryllis from the Garden Helper

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