A Few More Words About Amaryllis…

Garden Club of Oak Park & River Forest > Club Announcements > A Few More Words About Amaryllis…


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It will be difficult to give you anything less than an exuberant description of the Garden Club’s annual holiday meeting. The various committees outdid themselves with beautiful blue and silver décor, potted amaryllis, the delightful scent of fresh greens, and a table laden with everything from berries to petit fours. The living room had an overflow crowd listening and watching while Ward Wilson created stunning arrangements in less than five minutes. Each arrangement was made utilizing ordinary objects: coffee cups, a cake stand, grocery store items (apples, pine cones, small poinsettias) and branches and greens from the yard.

Once again our thanks to Elaine Allen for taking pictures [epa-album id=”7034″ show_title=”false” display=”excerpt”]

We hope those who purchased the live greens were inspired by Deb Cullen and the speaker into some beautiful swags and creations. If you will send me pictures of your work we would be thrilled to post them on our web site for the benefit of our other members. Mail to: gcnews@gcoprf.org

I missed out on getting one of the amaryllis bulb kits to go along with the charming children’s book Amy and the Amaryllis by Roberta Raymond. In my quest to find a source for a bulb kit I learned some interesting facts. The following is an adult version and undoubtedly too much information for children: Did you know that in 1753 the botanist, Carl Linnaeus, created the name Amaryllis belladonna now commonly known as Naked Lady or belladonna lily for what botanists thought was the South African plant grown in gardens. The cultivar we recognize at the holidays as amaryllis has been hybridized for over a century, belongs to the genus Hippeastrum and was originally from South America. For a time South African and South American plants were placed in the same genus. The Amaryllis belladonna has a solid flower stem while the genus Hippeastrum has a hollow stem, otherwise the flowers look similar. Botanists have argued over the nomenclature since the early 19th century and finally in 1987 the 14th International Botanical Congress settled that the scientific name of the genus belongs to Amaryllis l., the South African Amaryllis belladonna. Nevertheless, the common name amaryllis is used for bulbs from South America that bloom for the holidays.

The Hippeastrum are valued for their large blooms indoors in the winter in the northern hemisphere. The bulbs are relatively expensive but can be successfully brought back to bloom every year after a dormancy period. The larger the bulb the more flowers it will produce. The largest bulbs are 14” – 16” in circumference at harvest and produce three or more flower stems (scapes) with four to six flowers each. The common sizes are 10”-12” in diameter, have two stems with four to six flowers. Some bloom at the same time and others wait several weeks between blooms. The Netherlands produce the Royal Dutch hybrids that may bloom from eight to twelve weeks in the pots. The Dutch are usually the earliest to bloom. The holiday bulbs bloom four to six weeks after being potted. Most cultivars of Hippeastrum come from the Dutch and South African sources but are now produced in Texas, California, Japan, Brazil and Australia and other countries. The genus Hippeastrum contains some ninety species and over 600 cultivars including exotics that have thin, spider like petals.

If you purchased a blooming amaryllis, to enjoy it for the maximum amount of time, keep the plant in diffuse light and cool temperatures (60˚F) and barely moist. Do not get the part of the bulb that sticks out of the soil wet. Cut the flower stalks near the top after the bloom dies to prevent seeds from forming. When the stem dies cut it near the bulb, but be careful to not injure the leaves.

In late winter your amaryllis is in growth phase. Your main objective is to encourage leaf production to help the bulb for the next year’s flowers. Move the plant to the sunniest location possible, a south facing window, or greenhouse, fertilize it monthly, and don’t let the soil dry completely.

After danger of frost (May) if possible, plant your bulbs in the ground for the summer in a sunny location which will help the plant produce more leaves and grow larger. Put a small handful of bone meal in each hole. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks or use a slow release fertilizer.

In October (mid-August if you want the bulb to bloom at the holidays) carefully dig up the bulbs being careful of the brittle roots. Or if left in the pot, stop watering the bulb. Put the plants in a cool, dark place 50˚-60˚F (basement?) and let the leaves die, cut off the leaves and repot the bulb in fresh potting soil. The bulb should be planted in a pot only about an inch larger than the bulb. It likes to be cozy. Plant the bulb with 1/3 of the bulb out of the soil. Move it to a dark spot for its resting phase. Watch the bulb every week and after about eight to ten weeks you will see the tip of the new flower stalk emerging. Now it is time to place the plant in a sunny, warm location to stimulate root growth. After the first flower stalk blooms, move the plant to a location with low light and cooler temperatures to preserve the flower.

Purportedly you can keep your Hippeastrum (or if you prefer amaryllis) indefinitely with the right amount of growth and dormancy conditions. Provided with the right conditions, the bulb will get larger and multiply itself. You may get a gigantic bulb that produces three stalks and many flowers. A good return on your investment.

Happy Holidays Everyone