About four years ago, a friend gifted me with an amaryllis bulb around Christmastime. Despite being a fairly decent gardener, and someone with a lot of plants in the house, I was ambivalent about the amaryllis…until it bloomed. Then I fell in love with the tall, stately, showy flower. I couldn’t get enough of amaryllis, and I even started gifting them to people (the ones who have everything, you know?) around the holidays.
Each year I would buy at least one amaryllis for myself. And then I’d try and figure out what to do with the bulb after the two or three stalk blooming period. I’d forced tulip, daffodil, and hyacinth bulbs over the years, so I thought I should find out if an amaryllis bulb could be forced again.
GUESS WHAT! They can!
Here’s what you do:
- Once the bulb is finished blooming, cut off the flowering stalks. If there are leaves growing, that’s great because you’re already a step ahead!
- Keep the bulb in an area with decent light and water it when the soil is dry. Hopefully, leaves will shoot out and begin to grow and that’s good because that’s what is going to allow the bulb to regenerate.
- When the weather gets nice (for me, living in the Midwest United States, that’s not till May), move the potted bulb outside and just keep doing what you’ve been doing: water it when dry, let it get sun.
- Fertilize it every three or four weeks too. Let the leaves grow. The more the better. Don’t cut them back!
- When it starts to get cold (October-ish), take the bulbs out of the soil, cut back the leaves, and wrap it in either a paper bag or the net-like bags potatoes or Brussels sprouts or citrus come in from the grocery store.
- Put the naked bulb somewhere cool and dark: a basement or cellar, garage, somewhere like that. If it’s in a garage or an area where there is any light, put the bulbs in a box so they stay in the dark.
- They need to rest for at least a month; two or three are better. If I take my bulbs in around October, I bring them out in December. Keep in mind that if you want amaryllis for the holidays, you’ll have to put them away by October and get them out by late November or early December…and even then, there’s no guarantee when they will bloom.
- When they’ve rested in the cool and dark for at least two months, take out each bulb. Cut off any roots that are dry and crinkly. Leave any that are white and fleshy.
- Plant the bulb, with the top third of it exposed, in a well-drained soil. Water well, but make sure it drains easily.
- Now you wait. Put the pot(s) with the bulbs in them somewhere light and, if possible, warm. I have a strip of heated tile by one of my doors that I put all my plants on during the winter, which I think helps wake them up.
- At some point, the bulbs will begin to grow leaves. And, if you’re lucky, a flowering stalk or two will erupt. It might take months. It might not even do it the first year (some of mine didn’t). So just let it grow all summer outside when possible, let it grow the leaves, and if it doesn’t bloom by September, take the bulbs in as described in Steps 5 and 6, and then try again.
- Eventually, the bulbs will grow flowering stalks and you’ll have amaryllis—for free!