The bulbs are inexpensive enough to have many: you can cluster several of them in the same cozy planter, as I do, or arrange groupings of smaller pots on a dining table in favour of a single centerpiece. They also make easy, assembly-line gifts: tuck single bulbs into attractive terra-cotta pots, along with printed care instructions, tie a nice red bow around the rim of the pot and you've got a pretty gift!
The biggest surprise about these plants is that they are not members of the genus Amaryllis at all. The big, fat bulbs are in the related genus Hippeastrum and descend from plants native to tropical America. (The genus Amaryllis contains only one species, Amaryllis Belladonna; it comes from South Africa, is still quite rare and is tricky to grow).
The bulbs we grow indoors at holiday time are simple to care for; they thrive on benign neglect for much of the year. First, they don't need much room. In fact, they prefer close quarters: a pot about two inches larger in diameter than the bulb is ideal, or several closely clustered in one larger container, leaving about two inches between each bulb. Use a well-draining potting mix: try a blend of well-rotted compost, coarse sand and vermiculite in a ratio of 3:3:2. The key is to make sure the soil is well-draining.
The bulbs look so humble before they are planted. They contain so much beauty inside!
When it comes to water, Amaryllis requires very little. Water them once after the initial planting and then only once a week, or as needed, after the plant begins to show signs of green growth emerging from the bulb. Once the plant does start its rapid growth spurt, ensure the soil is evenly moist but never sopping wet.
I plant he bulbs in a flower pot I got at Anthropologie many years ago. I love its artichoke-like motif.
I always put moss around the bulbs. It looks attractive and I tell myself the plants enjoy the extra company.
Most of us discard the bulbs after the holidays, but if you're keen on keeping them until the following year, you certainly can. After the flowers die, cut back the stem to the tip of the bulb and then allow the foliage to continue to grow for the rest of the year, maintaining a regular watering schedule. In September, you will force the bulb into a dormant period by cutting back all of its foliage and keeping it in dark place for six to eight weeks without any light or water. In November, bring them out again and the flowering cycle should begin anew!