The ease of coaxing a potted amaryllis bulb into spectacular bloom makes it a satisfying winter project for gardeners and nongardeners alike. Turn one of these fist-sized bulbs into a gift by planting it in a decorative pot, adorned with sheet moss and a bow. Here are some growing tips for success with amaryllis:
Garden centers and mail-order retailers sell dormant amaryllis bulbs in fall and early winter. The bigger the bulb, the more abundantly it will bloom. Bulbs that approach the size of a grapefruit are likely to produce multiple flower stalks, extending the blooming period over several weeks.
Choose a pot about 3 inches broader than the diameter of the bulb. Heavy ceramic or terra-cotta are good choices for lending stability to these top-heavy plants. Make sure the pot has a hole for drainage.
1. To pot the bulb, put a few inches of moist potting soil in the bottom of the container. If the bulb has roots, fan them out over the soil.
2. Center the bulb in the pot with one hand while adding more potting soil, firming the soil around the roots as you go, to within ½ inch of the pot's rim. Leave the top one-third of the bulb exposed.
3. Water thoroughly to settle the soil around the bulb. Top the potting soil with sheet moss or Spanish moss, if you wish, and add a festive bow.
Put the pot in a warm, bright window. During the time it takes for the bulb to begin growth--usually within 2 or 3 weeks--water it just enough to keep the soil from drying out. Once the flower stalks emerge, rotate the pot frequently to encourage symmetry. Move the pot out of direct sunlight (and away from furnace vents) when the flowers open.
With proper care, an amaryllis will bloom year after year.
Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, December 2013/January 2014