scarlet flowered hippeastrum (commonly known as amaryllis)

Amaryllis Amour

My neglected windowsill of Hippeastrum, or Amaryllis, as they are commonly known, are looking rather dishevelled after a year of neglect. Hippeastrum originate in South America and grow naturally from Brazil north to Mexico in tropical and subtropical areas. They have been bred as cultivars since the late 1700s and produce gloriously colourful statement flowers over the winter months. They are tender perennials and are suitable for indoor growth in our inclement climate.

All red amaryllis bloom with leaves  

Like many flowering bulbs they are toxic to humans if eaten. They are also known to be toxic to dogs and cats. My older cat has shown no interest in eating them but if you have an adventurous younger pet then be aware and put them out of reach.

Over the last few years I have acquired a few as gifts. I keep them after flowering, watering and repotting bulblets and amaryllis when I remember. Some seem to re-flower and others do not so I decided to research how to help them and encourage them to re-flower. The advice out there varies but on the whole the following is advised:

  • They like rich but free draining compost.
  • They start into growth at higher temperatures - around 20 oC but the blooms last longer in a cooler room, out of direct sunlight.
  • They like a tight fit pot and to have a good third of the bulb above the compost.
  • You can plant them between October and February so can have a display of flowers between Christmas and Easter. Suggested times to flowering are 6-8 weeks but also up to 12 weeks from planting. 
  • After flowering, cut off the spent stem to stop the seed setting. As a result they may produce a second bloom. 
  • Once they have finished flowering allow the leaves to grow and feed the bulb ready for the following year.
  • Allow a period of dormancy to encourage re-flowering by reduced feeding and watering and/or placing in a cooler, darker place to mimic a natural winter.
  • They need feeding! Use a fruit and flower feed such as tomato feed. Half strength every fortnight is recommended, from shoot growth then on through the summer.
  • Their roots aren’t too keen on being disturbed so they only need repotting about every three years.

Varieties include single and double and the occasional scented variety.

So following the advice I found, I repotted my dried out, neglected amaryllis into fresh compost, watered and then I have left them on a warm windowsill. The larger ones have sprung into life producing strong leaves but not flower buds many amaryllis normally flower before producing leaves so it is unlikely that these will give me the blooms I’d hoped for. The smaller ones are yet to shoot. So next year I think I’ll aim for a cool dark place instead and see if it makes any difference to my family of bulbs. 

Amaryllis bulb with roots ready for repotting  Larger Amaryllis bulb and pot size Repotted amaryllis in slightly larger pot dressed with gravel

It’s looking like I’ll have to be patient. One year one of my bulbs bloomed in September and I really don’t know why! Maybe this time I’ll need to treat myself to a new one to watch over its growth and glory in its elegant flowers. A bit of natural life in my living room to take me through the winter!

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