Saturday, November 03, 2012

Amaryllis ~ Choosing, Prepping and Planting the "Queen of Bulbs"

The selections are amazing at this time of year... 
so many varieties!

While prepackaged amaryllis bulbs are convenient 
and ideal for gift giving, they're more likely to produce
one flower stalk, in contrast to these top-size bulbs... 

Top-size bulbs like these will usually produce 2-3 flower stalks, 
providing a spectacular indoor flower show... 
well worth the investment!

Hmm... Shall I go with huge (about 4" diameter) or
ginormous (about 6" across)?

Back home, with my purchase.  And my decision?  
The huge 4" diameter 'Apple Blossom' Amaryllis.

Time to get potting!  Takes about 6-8 weeks from potting
to bloom.  Before we start, it's time to address these shriveled
root tips for efficient water uptake.

With a sharp pair of kitchen shears or pruners, snip off
each withered root tip; otherwise, moisture absorption is 
hindered and rooting may be delayed.

A properly trimmed root system, ready for the next step...

Fill a pan with tepid water (I add a teaspoon of 
Neptune's Harvest Fish/Seaweed Blend) and suspend the
bulb above it.  This way, the newly opened root cells will
draw up the moisture, without risk of rotting the bulb.  
Allow it to remain thus suspended for several hours,
or overnight (my preference, to satisfy the bulb).

Pot choice?  Definitely clay, for stability... decorative ceramic 
pots are another choice, often favored for their decorative look.  
Plastic pots may suffice, but do not provide stability and care 
must be taken not to overwater. Here we see the three basic 
shapes available in terra cotta.  Left to right... standard, azalea
and bulb pan.  Choose the "standard" for adequate depth.

Diameter?  About two inches wider than the bulb diameter 
(measured at its widest point), so my 4" wide bulb requires  
that 6" diameter standard pot, shown above.

Soak the pot?  Absolutely!  That clay pot is porous and will 
continue to draw moisture from the root mass, until it becomes 
saturated.  Setting your pot in tepid water for 20-30 minutes
(until it's thoroughly soaked) before potting, eliminates this problem.
Alternatively, soak the potted bulb afterward.

Time to bring in the pea gravel and potting soil!

Put a clay shard or piece of screen over the drainage hole,
then add about an inch of gravel to ensure proper drainage.

Choose an organic-rich, well-drained potting soil like
my favorite Bar Harbor Blend® from Coast of Maine.

Fill the pot about halfway with potting soil, 
creating a little mound in the center, and pressing 
out air pockets with your hand.

Leave about 1/2 of the bulb exposed above the soil line.
Recommendations range from 1/3 to 2/3.  As you can see, I favor
the "2/3 rule," which greatly reduces the chance of overwatering.

I've chosen to soak the potted bulb, which provides its
first thorough watering.  Hereafter, water will be provided
from the top down, taking care to water around the bulb, 
not atop it. 

Why you'll want to rinse off that pea gravel!  Above, we
see it straight from the bag, dull and sand-coated... OK for
drainage stone, but not very decorative.  But, thoroughly
rinsed and it's a handsome alternative to white marble chips -
perfect for filling humidity trays.

Yes, the saucer is quite wide, intentionally!  When I water,
any excess will drain safely away from the root system, 
eliminating possible root rot.  Additionally, a constant water 
level can be maintained in the base of this over one inch stone
bed.  This amaryllis will have a constant supply of humidity - 
(without sitting in water) important with our relatively dry 
home air.  This does not replace your normal watering routine.
You may need to add water to that saucer on a daily basis.  
Apply this same system to any indoor plants all winter!

Do not overwater your newly planted bulb.  
Once or twice a week should suffice.  Once the flower bud tip
starts to protrude at the center of the bulb's neck, you may want
to increase watering frequency - possibly 2-3 times weekly.  It
will vary according to available light, temperatures and lack of
humidity, as well as pot type... obviously, clay will dry out sooner
than ceramic or plastic.

Light? About a half day of sun... morning or afternoon is fine.
Once flower stalks appear, move your pot back from the strong 
sun to bright, diffused light.  This will prolong flower life, 
allowing you to enjoy an extended flower display.

In another post... later, when you're wondering what to do with
that fading amaryllis, we'll cover the rest of the story and the
sometimes tricky scenario of re-blooming that bulb!

For now, we're left to anticipate an indoor flower show 
from the "Queen of Bulbs."

Enjoy your amaryllis!

Photos/Text: ©Deb Lambert 2010   


Shady Gardener said...

What a Great Post, Deb. I'll be watching your amaryllis with interest.

What about my bulbs that I've just brought indoors? The foliage has just about all died back. I usually let them rest for a couple or three months...

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Deb, I just provided a link to your Amaryllis post! ;-)

GardenAuthor said...

Thanks, Shady... me too!

Your rest cycle sounds right. I used to bring them in by late August (foliage intact) and lay the pots on their sides in a cool, dark spot in the cellar. They need complete dark and no water for about two months - not a spot where you use artificial light, either. I'd set them in my mom's preserve closet, under the cellar stairs, which was perfect!

I'm planning to follow the development of this particular 'Apple Blossom' bulb, right through to its outdoor vacation, in later posts. Based on my past experiences, these steps have always succeeded in re-blooming amaryllis bulbs.....

When the foliage is brown and dry, trim it to the top of the bulb. After the two months, I remove the top two inches of soil and replace with fresh potting soil, to which I've added a tablespoon of rock phosphate. I always use clay pots for amaryllis, so I soak the newly top-dressed bulb for about 1/2 hour in a mild solution of Neptune's Harvest fish/seaweed (1 teasp. in 2 qts. of water). If the bulb has truly outgrown its pot, this is the time to repot the bulb... pot should be only about two inches wider than the bulb, at its widest point... soak the clay pot either before or after potting.

Set the pot on a stone-filled saucer, maintaining a constant water level (as pictured in this post) to supply essential humidity, placing the bulb in east or filtered south sun. Withhold water completely until the flower bud tip is visible in the center of the bulb's neck. This may take several weeks. Soak the potted bulb once more in the fish/seaweed solution, to satisfy that dry clay pot. Leave in that partial sun and commence a normal watering routine... usually about 2-3 times weekly, depending on light and warmth (clay pots dry out fairly quickly in a warm position).

As flower stalks mature, I move the bulb away from strong, direct sun to bright, diffused light. This allows one to enjoy the blossoms over an extended period, since direct sun affects blossom longevity.

Well, this ran a bit long, but maybe other gardeners stopping by will enjoy the extra info... I know that you have great success at this process, Shady... I'm recalling past posts of yours with amaryllis in full bloom!

Thanks for the visit!

GardenAuthor said...

Appreciate the link, Shady! This amaryllis post is linked to the garden newsletter (GardenAuthor@CorlissClips)... on the assumption that a picture is still worth a thousand words... several newsletter subscribers have commented, in person, and found it helpful.

I'll be doing features on forcing hardy bulbs and paperwhites for upcoming issues.

BTW, loved your amaryllis photo - spectacular! Ditto on your viburnum header.