Get Amaryllis to Rebloom
My Holiday Amarylis is Spent. Now What?
Q: I have a couple of Amaryllis bulbs that I kept after they bloomed the first year. I keep them dry and dark until they show signs of life the following winter. Then, I start watering them and move them to a spot in the living room that’s bright but not sunny. The leaves always grow big and green but neither one ever blooms. Should I give up and toss them?
A: I grew up with lots of Amaryllis plants! Both grandmothers and my mom got new bulbs every Christmas and as they wouldn’t rebloom, I’d take them. My collection grew quite large over time.
When you first get the bulb, it’s often in a kit with a non-draining pot and some peat moss. Throw this out! You need a sturdy pot with a drain hole (I prefer terra cotta) that’s not too large. It should be two inches larger than the diameter of the bulb. I prefer to use a cactus/succulent potting mix but all-purpose potting mix will do. Plant so the top half of the bulb is sticking out above the soil line. Keep it slightly moist in a bright area then move it into full sun once the flower and/or leaves appear. Once it flowers, remove the spent blooms just behind the petals, leaving the big flower stalk. Only remove the flower stalk once it has shriveled and collapsed. Much of the carbohydrates in the stalk will be re-adsorbed by the bulb. Feed weekly with a blossom boosting fertilizer. It’s critical that the bulb grows bigger. If it’s not getting bigger it needs better care (more light, fertilizer, etc.).
As the leaves grow and develop it’s very important to keep them growing and not promote dormancy until at least SEVEN leaves have formed. The next flower bud is formed inside the bulb behind the seventh leaf. Ignore recommendations to let the bulb dry out to promote dormancy unless you’ve achieved the seven-leaf stage. The best way to do this is to keep fertilizing the Amaryllis after flowering and keep it in high light (full sun). In early June, move the plant outdoors into an area with bright, filtered sun light or at the most morning sun. Apply some commercial sheep manure to the top of the pot (about one inch deep). Continue the weekly blossom type fertilizer. If you achieve the seven-leaf stage, you can allow the bulb to dry out (promoting dormancy) then put the potted bulb in a cool, dark place (such as the basement) for at least two months. When you want it to bloom, resume watering and move the bulb back into a sunny window. It will take about seven to nine weeks for blossoms to appear.
Old bulbs that have diminished in size can be rejuvenated by following this procedure. Repot them into pots two inches wider than the bulb diameter and be patient. Soon, you will have windows full of Amaryllis!