Striking amaryllis blooms aren't just for the holidays. They make great gifts and indoor decorations during the winter when they've been forced into bloom, but with the right care, these stunning beauties can rebloom in your garden long after the holidays have passed.
So rather than toss these pricey bulbs ― they can cost as much as $15 each ― after the flowers fade, place them in your garden (in a pot or in the ground) to enjoy year after year. Follow the steps below to encourage rebloom in summer, the natural bloom time for amaryllis.
Amaryllis can thrive in the ground in well-drained soil and in pots. What's more, says Brent Heath, co-owner of Brent and Becky's Bulbs, "Many amaryllis are hardier than we thought."
Some varieties can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees, but amaryllis generally do best outdoors in Sunset climate zones 13, 15-17, 21-24, H1, and H2 (with shelter in zones 8, 9, 14, 18, and 20).
Three of Heath's favorites for growing in the garden are 'Baby Star' (deep red blooms with white stripes through each petal); 'Dancing Queen' (double flowers featuring red-and-white candy stripes); and 'Picotee' (white edged with red).
Info: Brent and Becky's Bulbs (877/661-2852)
How to encourage gift plants to rebloom the following summer:
To start new plants, set bulbs 2 to 3 inches apart and 2 to 3 inches from pot sides, with bulb tops above soil level.
Step 1: In winter, remove blooms after they fade and before seedpods develop, but leave the stems. Like the remaining foliage, they'll help restore energy to the bulb.
Once a stem shrivels and dries, cut it off at the base.
Step 2: Water when the soil is dry to 1 inch deep (about once a week), and feed every couple of months with liquid fertilizer diluted half-strength, as long as leaves remain green. Keep the plant in a bright, protected spot (such as indoors near a window).
If the foliage dies back and the plant goes dormant, withhold water and fertilizer. Remove dead leaves at the base.
Once danger of frost has passed, move the plant outdoors, ideally to a spot that gets morning sun and some afternoon shade.
Step 3: In spring, when new leaves emerge, top-dress with fresh soil, keeping the top of the bulb exposed; resume more frequent watering and fertilizing. The amaryllis should bloom again in late spring or summer.
Step 4: In early fall, stop watering and feeding after foliage fades (though some amaryllis are evergreen in mild climates); remove dead leaves. Move container to a protected spot. (In cold-winter climates, bring the container indoors to a cool, dry place such as a basement or garage.)