Many gardeners get confused when they enjoy Christmas amaryllis bulbs indoors and then in the late spring, marvel at the similar-looking blooms of Hippeastrum outdoors at botanical gardens. Well, guess what? They are the same plant. Hippeastrum is the botanical name for amaryllis.
photo by L.A. Jackson
For the best transition to the great outdoors, after its Yuletide show, keep your amaryllis alive and well inside until the last average frost date in the spring (mid-April for the Triangle), and then move it outside to the garden. Pick a site that receives plenty of sun but maybe is a bit shady in the late afternoon.
The planting area should be a well-draining site (with an elevated bed being ideal) that has prepared, fertile soil with a little bit of bone meal or phosphorus fertilizer mixed in. Also, adding a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the bulb will aid in conserving moisture through hot, dry periods.
To plant, remove the bulb from its pot and gently stretch out the root mass. Plant the neck of the bulb just below the soil line.
Your bulb might pop out a few blooms late next spring, but its first year outside is a time of transition. So, if any flowers are produced, after they fade, cut the stalks off to prevent any energy from being wasted in seed production. Finally, from May through August, treat your amaryllis with a light application of liquid fertilizer each month.
With the coming of winter, the leaves will die back, and they should be pruned off. In addition, as the plant goes into dormancy, it is a good idea to refresh the mulch to maintain a 2- to 3-inch thickness around the bulb for a little extra protection against any nasty cold snaps.
The following spring, strap-like leaves should force their way skyward when the weather warms up, and they will herald the coming of a very pretty, profuse flower show. This can then be followed by you patting yourself on the back for a job well done!
L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener magazine.