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Amaryllis growing guide

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Harrogate Autumn Flower Show
Which bulbs to choose...

Beautiful bulbous Brazilian beauties

I haven’t thought much of Amaryllis over the years, mainly due to the very poor, gift-wrapped specimens that get trotted out in supermarkets and department stores every year.

And how many of the poor plants are kept going from year to year? Precious few, I’ll bet. However, my views have changed – those huge, exotic flowers can’t be beaten at such a grim time of year.

I was sorely tempted by some giant bulbs at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show and I really regret not buying them – I was too knackered to go all the way back. I put that right by buying five bulbs (it would have been six but I miscounted) at the Dutch Plants stall Newcastle’s Christmas market.

They are all named varieties but I immediately mixed them up, so I’m having ‘fun’ identifying them as they flower.

The Amaryllis is a tender bulb from Brazil and so needs to be grown inside when it’s cold, but once the frosts are over, specimens can be moved outside until the end of summer. Think of them as a tender garden plant, like a geranium.

Potted guide: Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

  • Plant the bulb (pointy-end up) two-thirds in, one-third out of the compost.
  • Use rich but very well-drained compost (add one-third horticultural grit or sand).
  • They like to feel confined; put them in a heavy pot (they can topple over) just 5-6cm wider than the diameter of the bulb, with a crock in the bottom for drainage. Firm them in tightly to hold the bulb in place.
  • Place the pot in a sunny position and water sparingly until you see 2″ of new growth, then water regularly.
  • Turn the pot now and again for a straight stalk.
  • Keep them in a bright, warm, sunny place, ideally at about 20°C, free from draughts of an open window, such as a shelf above a radiator.
  • A support may be needed to keep the heavy blooms upright.
  • Water regularly and flowers will appear five to eight weeks after planting. To prolong flowering, keep the pot out of direct sunlight.

Care after flowering

Once the plant is flowering, continue watering and keep it slightly cooler (10-15°C). As each bloom fades, cut it off at the top of the stalk and when the whole stalk is over and begins to sag, cut it off just above the bulb nose.

After flowering, feed and water, until the leaves begin to yellow in late summer/early autumn. At this stage, cut the leaves back to about 6cm (2½in) from the top of the bulb and remove it from the pot.

Keep the bulb cool (5-10°C) and dark, to give it a dormant period for eight weeks before bringing it into leaf and flower. Don’t re-pot it for the first couple of years; it hates root disturbance. The older and bigger the bulb, the more flowering stems you’ll get.

Bulbs older than two years will produce offsets. These may be left attached, or you can remove them before you replant and pot them up – they’ll take a couple of years to flower.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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