George says: Is this the way to Amaryllis? Sha la la la la la la la!
The true name is Hippeastrum but commonly known as Amaryllis, these bulbs make ideal Christmas gifts, and give an array of colour and exotic blooms.
When purchasing an amaryllis bulb, look for the biggest size possible. For 3-5 stems with 4-5 flowers on each, you can buy a jumbo bulb 34/36cm in size from a specialist grower. For a middle size, try a 28/30cm bulb – you will still get 2-3 stems with 3-4 flowers on each stem. The smaller bulbs available in garden centres or shops will produce 1-2 stems and 3-4 flowers on each stem. So you have choices.
When planting, first obtain the right size pot – bearing in mind that the heavy flowers will need a well anchored base to sustain the weight of your blooms. Use a John Innes number 2 compost when planting, then plant the bulb firmly in the pot leaving the neck of the bulb proud of the surface.
Keep the soil just moist in the early stages, and in around six weeks you will see the signs of the first bud appearing followed by leaves. At this point you will need to add a little extra water.
Keep the developing bulb in a cool room throughout the growing period; this will give strong foliage and stems to support the large flowers. Weak soft stems will collapse under the flower weight. It is also useful to support the flower stems with a green split cane, plus you need to turn your plant regularly. The flower bud will be drawn to the light thus avoiding a bend in the flower stem.
There are many fantastic colours available. Look at a specialist grower’s catalogue for some of the new introductions – they are well worth the extra money.
In garden centres and supermarkets, you can purchase the basic colours, which are mostly the standard varieties which give great flowers and satisfaction, but a more exotic choice is a great challenge and gives a sense of satisfaction. Some varieties even have a perfume, which adds to the attraction.
If you purchase a number of bulbs, you can plant them at different times, thus giving you continuity of amaryllis flowers over a longer period.
When your amaryllis has finished flowering, cut the stems off 3 inches above the bulb, leaving the leaves, then remove to a dry place in the shed, garage, or outside in the summer.
Keep moist and feed with a liquid fertilizer to build up the nutrients in the bulb to flower for another year.
Around July, stop watering and allow the foliage to dry off. After a few weeks trim all remaining foliage from the bulb and then store in a dry place ready to plant again when desired.
If you wish to be adventurous, try planting three large bulbs of the same colour in a large pot and achieve a magnificent arrangement for a centrepiece on your dining table or windowsill. Alternatively, you can grow your amaryllis in a greenhouse or conservatory in several pots and then cut the flowers for indoor arrangements. Always cut when the colour is in the buds.
I mention the family firm Warmenhoven again who display fabulous exhibits of amaryllis and alliums at Chelsea. They have a very good selection of colours at reasonable prices.
When you consider a bulb costs no more than a supermarket bouquet of flowers, and think of the pleasure you derive from them for at least a month, it is a worthwhile purchase – plus you have the challenge of growing your own amaryllis.
Sha la la la la la la la!