Amaryllis Encore

Last year's amaryllis bulb was very, very kind to me. When I buy an amaryllis bulb and plant it, I do so with the intention of reusing the bulb the following year. A relatively unknown feature of the amaryllis is that the same bulb can be used perennially, provided you follow a few simple guidelines, which I'll explain below. Sometimes the reused bulbs cooperate and sometimes (often) they do not. This year, the bulb I had been keeping in storage for eight weeks, beginning in September, was very cooperative! Below are some photos I took yesterday of the towering plant, which is blooming just in time for Christmas.

The amaryllis is a Dutch variety called Minerva. It offers several large flowers with petals six to seven inches in length on a stem that can grow as high as 18 inches. Mine grew 14 inches this year.

A towering beauty! Amaryllis look so untouchable and powerful, and yet they're so resillient and hardy - not at all the fussy flower you think they would be. They require little water, lots of light and warmth, and coarse, well-draining soil.
Storing Amaryllis:

If you want to save your amaryllis bulbs and try to get them to bloom the following year, follow these instructions.

1.) Once the plant stops blooming, cut off the long stem but allow the foliage to continue to grow throughout the winter and summer months. Amaryllis foliage is not the most attractive (long, plain leaves that sprout from the bulb) so I often put the potted bulb on the balcony in the summer, making sure it gets lots of sun. Keeping the leaves on the plant allows the bulb to store up much-needed energy prior to its dormant phase.

2.) Water the plant regularly, as you would a house plant - keeping in mind that amaryllis likes its soil on the drier end of the spectrum, but never bone dry. (When planting amaryllis, the soil should be well-draining with a healthy proportion of sand. Martha Stewart recommends a combination of well-rotted compost, coarse sand and vermiculite in a ratio of 3:3:2.)

3.) In September, cut off the leaves and place the pot in a cool, dark place for up to eight weeks. This is the plant's dormant stage. Do not water the plant at all during these eight weeks and allow it to rest. This mimics the African dry season.

4.) The first week of November, remove the bulb from its soil and place it in a fresh batch of soil mixture. Discard the old soil. Water it well. This will restimulate its growth. Place the bulb in bright sun. A south-facing window is ideal. The warmth of the sun will further provoke the bulb to begin to grow again.

5.) Water every week until the plant begins to bloom again. Once the blooms start, withhold water for a while. This will ensure constant blooming. When the soil is parched, water again.

If your amaryllis doesn't bloom a second time, do not despair. It seems to me that reused amaryllis are a bit temperamental and it takes the perfect conditions (which you can not always control) and a healthy dose of luck for the plants to bloom a second time. I've had several no-shows in the past. Often the bulb will only yield several leaves and an awkward looking stalk, if anything at all. But give it a try. Last year's blooms were bigger and brighter, but I was still very surprised and delighted by this year's results!

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