Return of the Amaryllis: They Will Bloom Year After Year With the Proper CareSep 09, 2022 01:21PM ● By Erik Entwistle
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are among the largest and most spectacular flowers that you can grow easily yourself. The popular, oversized bulbs are simple to force indoors, either in water or planted in a pot. It’s an annual practice that for many brings much-appreciated beauty into the home during the dreary, dark days of winter.
In colder regions of the country where amaryllis are not hardy, gardeners can try to keep them alive in a sunny window after blooming, or plant them outside temporarily during the warmer months until the next growth cycle. When our family lived in New England we had amaryllis bulbs that we kept in individual pots on a sun porch, sometimes bringing them outdoors, and did have some success in getting the bulbs to rebloom.
Here in Southwest Florida, the situation is much more favorable, as amaryllis bulbs can find a permanent home outside after they have finished their blooming stage indoors. Choosing a suitable site for planting, along with some basic care, will increase the odds of your bulbs flowering in subsequent years, which they will tend to do in March or April.
Our plants have done best when planted in partial shade (an amaryllis bulb planted in full shade will yield only foliage). We tuck our bulbs randomly around the front of our borders and plant whatever colors we like, often adding new bulbs purchased during the current season. We like to order from John Scheepers, which has a great selection of amaryllis; the limited varieties offered at the local box stores pale in comparison.
While too little sun is one potential cause of failure for amaryllis in the landscape, too much water can also cause problems. Amaryllis bulbs don’t like to remain wet, so the soil must be well-draining and the location not subject to flooding or standing water, or the bulbs will rot. The bulbs also go dormant during the winter months and need to be allowed to dry out during that time. We learned the lesson of overwatering after planting several bulbs in a raised garden bed that received regular irrigation year-round. The result was several years of healthy-looking foliage and no flowers. After moving the bulbs to another bed at ground level in an area with less water and better-drained soil, blooming resumed the following spring.
Fertilization involves simply providing granular plant food around bloom time to ensure the bulb builds enough energy reserves to bloom again the following year. As far as pests go, watch out for lubbers and grasshoppers, which will decimate the foliage, and even the flowers, if not removed from the plants.
It is important to bear in mind that amaryllis grown outdoors in Florida have a fairly short blooming time of only a few weeks, as the heat curtails the life of the flowers. I like to cut all of my amaryllis flower stalks once they’ve started opening and put them in vases in the house, where they can be enjoyed up close and where the cooler temperature preserves the flowers for longer than they would have lasted still attached to the plant.
So, after enjoying your amaryllis bulb indoors, don’t throw it away if you have room to give it a home outside in the garden. It is satisfying to watch a naturalized amaryllis bulb thrive year after year in the spring as a spectacular substitute for the tulips and daffodils blooming up north.
Pianist, instructor, and musicologist Erik Entwistle lives and teaches on Sanibel. He writes the Stay Tuned column for TOTI Media. A favorite hobby is growing vegetables and fruit using sustainable gardening methods.