My two amaryllis bulbs that I saved from more than a year ago are blooming now. Why so late? It turns out that they are doing what amaryllis naturally do, not what we flower-mad humans manipulate them to do. Here’s the story of my amaryllis and its spring-blooming ways.
I bought these two bulbs (I believe they are a variety called Red Lion) on discount in late 2021. They grew well and bloomed in February of that year. Then, following directions I learned from the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, I saved the bulb to get even bigger blooms for the holidays in 2022. As the directions suggested, I potted the bulbs up and hardened them off so they could spend the summer outdoors in a part shade area. Outside of their bloom time, amaryllis have strap-like foliage that looks good in a container planting. They grew reasonably well, but the bulbs did not get larger. Perhaps I did not fertilize them enough?
I moved last fall, but the container with the amaryllis came with me and grew outside until frost. The cold temps should have been enough to give the bulbs the chill they needed to bloom again. I cut back the foliage and stored them in a coolish (though maybe not cool enough), dark place for about eight weeks. They looked a bit wrinkly when I pulled them out, but what the heck! I planted them in some cute heirloom containers and set them in my sun room to bloom away.
Not Dead Yet
The holidays came and went with no signs of life from the amaryllis. I almost threw them out. Then, my husband and I went to Florida for several weeks to get away from the Minnesota winter. My daughters took over watering my plants and when I came back, the amaryllis had the tiniest bits of foliage coming up. They were not dead. They grew very slowly—for months.
In April, the leaves got a lot bigger and a bloom stalk appeared! And today (May 2), both of the bulbs are in full and glorious bloom. I should not have been surprised that it took so long to bloom because amaryllis are basically a spring bulb. They bloom around the holidays because we force them to.
A Spring Bulb
The plant we call amaryllis is a member of the genus Hippeastrum, which is native to South America, particularly Brazil, though it can grow in tropical and subtropical areas as far north as Mexico. (The genus Amaryllis comes from South Africa.) The plant’s native range features cool, dry winters but not freezing temperatures. In it’s native environment, amaryllis bloom in early spring—usually February to May in the northern hemisphere. So, given how far north I am located and probably the lack of fertilizer over last summer, the April-May bloom time seems about right.
Of course, the ease with which you can control the bloom time is one reason amaryllis are so popular as a holiday flower. If you want to rebloom an amaryllis and force it to bloom at a time of your choosing, it should be held in 40 to 55 degree range for 6 to 8 weeks, then brought into a warmer room about 8 weeks before you want it to bloom.
They don’t like too much water when first in the warm room, but as the leaves and stalks form, you should increase watering. After the amaryllis blooms fade, cut the stalks a few inches from the bulb, and transition the plant to the outdoors. You’ll probably want to pot it up into a larger container to give the plant a chance to grow more roots. This year, I plan to fertilize the plant more than I did last year in hopes of building up the bulb for an even bigger bloom next year.
Then, it can bloom whenever it wants.