"You, Tityrus, stretched in shade, teach forests to echo the beauteous Amaryllis." - from the First Eclogue of Vergil, Ancient Roman Poet
'Tis the season for growing amaryllis, which means "sparkling". Originating in the Andes Mountains in Chile and Peru, the amaryllis was first discovered in 1828 by a physician from Leipzig on a plant expedition in Chile. Thus it obtained its botanical name, hippeastrum, which means "star from the (land of) horses".
Amaryllis bulbs, available in Fall and early Winter, are easy to grow, magnificent to behold when in bloom, and bloom for several years. The flower stalks (often two per bulb) grows to 18-24 inches and the star lily-like blooms are 4-6 inches wide. The bloom colors can be white, salmon, pink, red, and variations in-between, including some with "stripes". An amaryllis bulb make a wonderful gift. Kits with a pot, soil, and bulb are readily available around the holidays, but it is simple to assemble your own. Just be sure to attach growing instructions.
How to Grow an Amaryllis
Plant an amaryllis bulb in a pot which is 3-4 inches wider than the bulb. Use well-drained potting mixture and plant bulb so that 1/2 to 1/3 of bulb is above the soil line. Several bulbs can be planted together in a larger post, as well. Place in a warm,sunny location. Water well, then don't water again until shoots appear.
As the leaves and flower stalk(s)/stem(s) are growing, water regularly when the soil is dry. Turn the pot every two days to ensure straight growth of the flower stalk(s). Blooms should open 6-8 weeks after planting. When flowering, move to a less sunny location to prolong blooms. Stake blooms if necessary.
When blooms are spent, remove them and treat amaryllis like a houseplant, watering and fertilizing regularly. Move pot to a partially sunny location outdoors during the summer, if desired. In the Fall, move pot to a dark cool place and cease watering. After 6-8 weeks remove the brown leaves and return plant to a sunny location to begin the flowering cycle again.
Repot the bulb every 3-4 years as it increases in diameter. Off-sets of bulbs can be removed and potted, but usually take a couple of years to flower.