Amaryllis


Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

Top Tips

  • Keep the plant on the drier-side to life, only rehydrating once the majority of the soil dries out.
  • When potting-up in compost, keep the top 30% of the bulb above the soil line for bacterial issues. Scroll down to 'Repotting' towards the bottom of the article for more information.
  • Provide a few hours of winter sun per day, but away from excessively dark locations, too.
  • Use a potassium-based feed whilst in bud/bloom, before reverting back to a general plant fertiliser at monthly intervals for the rest of the year.
  • A lack of flowers could be down to too warm or moist conditions during the autumn and winter months.
  • Either keep the foliage or remove after flowering. Scroll down to 'Pruning' for more information on this.
  • The true name of Amaryllis sold during the Christmas period is actually Hippeastrum.

∙Water - 🔸

Allow the top half of the soil to dry out in between waters during blooms in autumn or winter. Once the pot feels light when lifted, compared to when you last watered it, this is the best time to rehydrate. Once the blooms have elapsed, reduce the frequency of irrigations further to replicate its dormancy from late winter until the summer. There's no siding-factor when watering your Amaryllis; most people pour water directly into the soil, whereas others use the bottom-up method by submerging the plant in a pool of water for a short spell. As long as the bulb never sits in soggy or standing water unnecessarily, it'll be happy for years to come. It's always better to under-water an Amaryllis than over-do it, as they naturally grow in semi-dry hillsides around Southern America. Under-watering symptoms include curled or crispy leaves, wilted foliage, yellowing leaves and stunted growth. Only allow the majority of the soil to become dry once the plant is in its dormancy period after the festive period. Over-watering symptoms include yellowing or browning leaves, stunted growth, wilting and a rotten bulb. Avoid the soil becoming overly saturated due to the species' susceptibility to root rot and other soilborne dieases. If this has happened to your specimen, increase the intensity light somewhat with fewer irrigations - a fully softened over bulb will spell the end of its life. Over-watering is commonly caused by too little light or heat or a lack of drying soil in between irrigations.


∙Humidity - 🔸

Typical humidity found in the home is more than enough to occupy an Amaryllis, as too high humidity and poor air circulation may result in powdery mildew. Never mist the flowers to increase its humidity as botrytis petal blight will develop.


∙Location & Light - 🔸🔸

A location with a splash of morning or evening sun is the ideal setting for this species, as too dark settings will heighten the chance of root or bulb rot.  If you're worried about its location being too dark, if a newspaper can be read whilst having your back towards the light source, you're good to go. Although direct sunlight is beneficial for an Amarylis, avoid scorching the leaves with too intense rays as this will quickly lead to a murky green appearance.

In terms of the ideal location around the house, as long as the desired location is above 15ºC  (59ºF)  and is at least four metres away from an operating heat source, it should be accepted. Do not situate in a dark location metres away from a light source, as this will only increase the chance of over-watering. 


∙Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Use a fertiliser high in potassium to prolong its flowers during the festive period - an excellent example would be a Tomato Feed. Regular fertilisers, for instance, BabyBio or Miracle-Gro, does the job, but will favour foliar growth over the flowers. For the rest of the year, a standard fertiliser can be used to supplement the plant once a month. 


A healthy specimen from the local garden centre for £7.99, which is roughly the price you'll pay for a bulb.


Common Issues with Amaryllis

Over-watering is the biggest issue with Amaryllis. Although moist soil is vital for long-lasting flowers, avoid keeping the soil saturated for extended periods to prevent the chance of rot. Allow the top half of the soil to become dry in between irrigations, and always remember to use tepid water to avert shocking the tender root systems. Typical signs of over-watering include yellowed leaves, stunted growth and a softened bulb. During its dormancy (shortly after flowering form late winter), reduce the frequency of waters considerably until late summer.

Too little light could cause wilting leaves but without a softened bulb. Its leaves will begin to bend over, still sporting a healthy green appearance. This process may happen soon after the flowering period, but owners should be alarmed - either support or remove the leaf. If you're scared that the location is too dark, as long as a newspaper can be read (when facing away from the light), you're good to go. If this has occurred with your specimen, improve the amount of light fractionally, keeping in mind the heightened chance of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions) and, of course, sun-scorch.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun-scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, curled leaves or little growth. Although too low light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will also be a detriment in the likes of dehydration. A location that offers a little to no direct sunlight will bring the optimum growth for the Amaryllis.

A lack of flowers can be an array of different issues, including a poorly spent dormancy, too much water or surrounding heat over the non-flowering months and an over-potted bulb. A period of dormancy once the flowers have elapsed (from January onwards) will depict whether or not your Amaryllis will bloom. The second factor could be to do with how much water or heat you give the bulb over the course of the year. You must replicate their dormancy by reducing the frequency of waters, which in turn can allow the plant to rest. The final, most crucial element of a successful bloom is how restricted the roots have become; some Amaryllis need to be potbound in order to bloom, as the plant will think it's nearing the end of its life. Scroll down to the next section of this article to learn about the ideal dormancy period.




Dormancy Care & Annual Flowers

Amaryllis can keep flowering year after year in the right care - sometimes even twice within twelve months! ukhouseplants have specimens that are now over twenty years old, which have produced their own 'bulbils' (smaller bulbs that develop into an individual plant), producing beautiful blooms each year, without fail. A good dormancy period shortly after the spent flowers will allow the bulb to regain its strength for the following year. There's no need to cut the leaves off, but removing them won't be a detriment either. Here are the key tips for keeping an Amaryllis for years to come, and how to prepare for its dormancy from late winter onwards.


Droughts, Droughts, Droughts!

It's all about under-watering with Amaryllis. If we told you that they can bloom even without roots or soil, it speaks for itself about how little this species can thrive off. Only rehydrate the soil once the majority has fully dried out; never promote soggy soil or water-logging as both will quickly lead to an unhappy plant. The bulb will enter its dormancy shortly after flowering, so this is a perfect time to neglect it for a while. Allow all of the soil to become dry for two weeks in between irrigations, slowly increasing the frequency from late summer onwards to encourage a bloom.

Potbound Roots

An Amaryllis' roots must be pot bound to aid the chance of another bloom, much like the Moth Orchid or Anthurium, for example. The plant must feel restricted in order to send out a flower stalk, thus to reproduce and pass-on the genes. Of course, there are other factors, such as the temperature and daylight hours, that can help this process but starting with its roots is always a good idea. An added bonus of keeping the plant pot bound is that you're far less likely to over-water due to the balance of soil to roots, greatly favouring the latter.


For most plants, potbound roots is a bad idea; however, Amaryllis can flower each year if kept this way.

Temperature

Although this is not an essential element for showy flowers, reducing the surrounding temperature by a few degrees in the spring will work wonders. Many houseplants won't serve a good dormancy over the winter, purely because of the average household temperature being more or less consistent throughout the year. Situating an Amaryllis in a cooler location shortly after the flowering process will empathise this period, thus focusing its energy on producing blooms later in the year.




Origins

The Amaryllis sold commercially throughout the festive period isn't actually an Amaryllis at all - its actual name is in fact, Hippeastrum. The latter originates from rocky hills in South America and was first described by Carl Linnaeus as the Amaryllis Belladonna (hence the confusion), before being placed in its own genus in the early 19th century. The name comes from the Latin for 'Knight's Star', despite there being no official explanation for its reasonings.


Temperature

6°C - 25°C   (42° - 78°F).
H1c - The bulb can be placed outdoors in late summer in a sheltered location, whilst the night temperatures are above 8°C  (46°F). Situating the potted bulb outside a few months before the festive period will greatly improve the chance of potential flowers. Regularly keep an eye out for pests (mealybugs & snails) and do not allow temperatures to dip below 15°C  (59°C)  during the flowering period as irreversible damage may occur in the likes of sudden flower loss.


Spread

Bulb - Up to 30cm in diameter.
Leaf Blades - Up to 80cm in length and 7cm in width.

Maturity can be reached within five years before producing 'bulbils', lateral bulbous growth that'll develop into its own organ eventually. Amaryllis and Hippeastrum can last in an excess of thirty years if kept in good care.


Pruning

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases; remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant. 

Its leaves can be taken off shortly after the flowering period, or can be left throughout the year - this solely depends on the grower's choice. Once the blooms have elapsed, the flower stalk can be removed with a clean pair of scissors without harming the bulb. There's no need to remove the dead flakes off the bulb, as this can act as a protection to diseases.


Try not to remove any more of the stem than this, as it may damage the top of the bulb.

Propagation

Via seed or bulbil division. To learn about the critical essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips

During spring or summer, take the bulb out of the soil and inspect its health below the soil line. Trim away any of the dead roots and search for small bulbous growths that'll develop near to the basal plate. If the bulb is at least 15% of the mother plant's size, it can be removed and potted in its own soil. Don't worry if there aren't any roots, this will soon develop once the plant starts to fend for itself. Place the bulb vertically into the soil, ensuring the 'neck' is still above the soil line. For those who are a little confused with how far to submerge the bulb, and what a 'bulbil' looks like, have a look at the images below. The level of maturity will greatly depict when the bulb will next flower; smaller specimens (around 2cm in diameter) generally taking two or three years from propagation.

N.B. - Do not separate the bulbs whilst the plant is in flower, as this may lead to sudden flower loss or transplant shock

Submerge the bulb at least 30% beneath the soil line.

An immature 'bulbil' that can be separated once it's at least 15% of the mother bulb's size.

Flowers

Their flowers are relatively large, trumpet shaped flowers that are arranged in threes or fours at the top of one or two shafts, usually around 30cm in height. The individual flower will last up to a week, with the overall show spanning three to four weeks. Most specimens will bloom within the region of September and March, but can flower at any given time.

If you'd like to get your specimen to bloom in time for the festive period, scroll up to the section labelled 'Dormancy Care & How to Keep an Amaryllis Alive for Years for more information.


Repotting

During the summer, repot every three to four years using Houseplant compost with added perlite or grit. Although Bulb fibre is acceptable, it'll usually cost far more than Houseplant soil. It's unadvised to plant an Amaryllis into a pot which lacks drainage holes, as the chance of bulb or root rot is high.

If it's your first time potting the bulb, it's important to pot an Amaryllis with the top 30% above the soil line - scroll up to the images above for visual help. Place the bulb vertically into the compost, making sure that the pot has enough room to accommodate a few years of root growth. Although the rule of thumb is to repot a houseplant biannually, Amaryllis will thrive and bloom for many years if their root systems are restricted. Never perform a transplant whilst the plant is in bloom. For matured specimens, introduce some grit to promote a stronger root ball as well as the reduced chance of root rot; click on this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant.


Diseases & Pests

Common diseases with Amaryllis are rot, powdery mildew, leaf-spot disease, botrytis petal blight and powdery mildew. Most diseases are caused by excess moisture in the soil or on the flowers or foliage; maintain dry leaves and always avoid water-logging for best results. Keep an eye out for spider mite, thrips, aphids, mealybugs and snails / slugs if kept outdoors over the summer. For more info on how to address any of these issues, hit this link.  Identifying Common Houseplant Pests & Diseases


Toxicity

This plant is classified as poisonous. If parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.


Retail Locations

Shortly before and after the Christmas period. Specimens are likely to be found in most garden centres and supermarkets across the northern hemisphere and may appear around Easter in Australia. Choose the healthiest example that sport no signs of stress in the likes of a softened bulb or a lack of roots.

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