Published on 12/09/98

Amaryllis Colorful Boast of Christmases to Come

The showy flowers of amaryllis make an almost perfect gift. With just a little effort, this year's practically foolproof flowers boast of countless Christmases to come, says a University of Georgia expert.

"When properly cared for, an amaryllis bulb may produce flowers for many years," said Mel Garber, an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

amaryllis.jpg (16230 bytes)"Quality bulbs of named varieties may produce up to six flowers on a single stalk," Garber said.

Amaryllis is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

To get the most out of your amaryllis blooms this year, Garber said, give it some cool evenings (65 degrees). And water it often as soon as it starts flowering.

Then, when the show's over, cut back the flowering parts.

"Remove each flower as soon as it passes its peak beauty," Garber said. "After all the flowers on the stalk have bloomed, cut off the stalk itself two inches above the bulb."

That will prevent a drain of food from other developing flower buds or foliage, he said.

But don't cut the foliage, he said. The leaves begin to appear as the plant flowers. They're the plant's means of putting back the food reserves it expended in flowering.

Indoors, keep the amaryllis in a southern window, Garber said. An eastern or western window is second best. Plants in a northern window may need extra light.

When the danger of frost has passed, move the plant outdoors.

The size and quality of the flowers next year depend greatly on how you fertilize it during the year, Garber said.

"Any soluble or liquid fertilizer is satisfactory for pot plants," he said. "But use it at half the recommended rate."

Fertilize first when the flowering starts, again when the flower stem is 6 to 8 inches tall and again right after flowering, when the old flowers and stems have been removed. Continue fertilizing at five- to six-week intervals.

The new control-release fertilizers also work well, Garber said, and can be used at about half-rate in the pot.

To prepare potted amaryllis for flowering next year, stop watering and feeding the plant by Oct. 1. When the foliage wilts and droops, cut it off. Then place the plant in a warm, dry place for two to three months. Don't water or fertilize it during this time.

In January, move the pot to a southern window. You may want to repot it if it has outgrown the pot. But remember, amaryllises like to be slightly root-bound.

Then start watering and fertilizing again. And step back to watch a beautiful encore.

Learn more about caring for holiday plants (holiday cactus, Christmas pepper, poinsettia and many others) on the World Wide Web at < cd/L234.html>.

Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.