Did you know that the beautiful amaryllis you have been enjoying indoors this winter can rebloom next year and the year after that, too?
“I’ve been using the same bulbs through the years,” said Doug O’Reilly, horticulturist and head gardener at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. He has to make sure he has amaryllis flowers– and lots of them– blooming every year for the annual Amaryllis and Cymbidium Exhibit.
The exhibit continues through Feb. 20 at the Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo. About 15 or 20 different varieties are being shown, and he has a total of 500 or 600 specimens on exhibit at one time or another during the show. As one plant loses its flower, O’Reilly must have another specimen waiting in the wings to replace it.
As you can see from these photos that I took at the exhibit, the flowers can be spectacular even when they have been forced to blossom indoors during the winter in previous years.
Here’s how you can keep your own amaryllis reblooming year after year.
At this time of year, when your plant has lost its bloom, keep watering it, O’Reilly said.
In the summer, put the pot outside and keep watering it, he said. (I learned the hard way that you can’t skip this step. The plant has to work during the summer to store nutrients to recharge the bulb.)
Bonus tip: I have acquired several bulbs over the years and have put them all into one big pot. A big pot tends to retain moisture better so I don’t have to water as often as I would have to if I had them in small, individual pots during the summer.
At the end of August or beginning of of September, bring the pot inside. O’Reilly brings his amaryllis into an unheated garage. There he lets them dry out completely to prepare them for the next step.
Next he puts the bulbs, still in pots, into a cooler at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. He feels that putting the bulbs into the cooler helps them develop flowers faster.
He let the pots and soil dry out first because if they were damp when they were placed into the cooler, the bulbs would rot, he explained.
Since I have a big pot that’s too big for my refrigerator, I just set the pot in the basement where it’s a bit cooler than the rest of the house, and that works well enough for me. It’s important to O’Reilly that his plants develop flowers fast so that they are ready in time for the amaryllis exhibit. When it comes to my own plants, it doesn’t matter when they bloom. As long as I get some flowers sometime during the winter, I’m happy.
Now comes the key step: When the bulbs are in the cooler or basement, don’t water them. The bulbs will go dormant, O’Reilly explained.
He leaves his plants in the cooler for about two months, taking them out in the middle of November. I leave mine in the basement until I notice new leaves starting to grow. Then I bring them upstairs and place them in a sunny window.
At this point, start watering your amaryllis again. O’Reilly said he fertilizes the plants every other week.
O’Reilly notes that he doesn’t divide his bulbs every year, so he gets offshoots and multiple flower stems growing in one pot, as you can see with the ‘Apple Blossom’. That’s a lovely effect.
Photos by Connie Oswald Stofko