Keep your amaryllis reblooming year after year in Buffalo area

Amaryllis Sydney in Buffalo NY
Amaryllis Sydney

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.

Amaryllis 'Ferrari' in Buffalo NY
Amaryllis 'Ferrari'

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.

Amaryllis 'Apple Blossom' in Buffalo NY
Amaryllis 'Apple Blossom'

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.

white double flowering amaryllis in Buffalo NY
White double flowering amaryllis

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

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9 Comments on “Keep your amaryllis reblooming year after year in Buffalo area

  1. I did exactly what you said and all 7 of my amaryllis bulbs only had leaves. Including the 1bulb that bloomed the last 3 years.

  2. Ruth,
    Oh, how sad! I’m not sure what to say. I guess I would think back along the process and see if there is anything you might have missed, or if you did anything differently from the years when you did get blooms. Did you water your plants enough over the summer? Did you stop watering them in the fall long enough? Is the window where you have them now sunny enough? And of course, what did you do during the years you had blooms that you didn’t do this year? I wish you more success next year.

  3. We had an amaryllis that bloomed in the house and then we planted it in the garden that summer and it bloomed again. So the deer ate it.

  4. Oh, no! What an exciting story– reblooming in the same year! Then comes the tragic ending for the super plant. Too bad. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have been using this method for at least 5 years and my amaryllis are doing so well — almost too well. I’m running out of window space to show off my blooms!

  6. After two sad amaryllis comments, it’s good to hear a story with a happy ending! This process worked for me, too. I have a red amaryllis that’s just opening today.

  7. I “rescued” two bulbs at Wegman’s just after Christmas when they were marked down. One was already growing and the 6-8″ stalk was curled around inside the box. I potted it up and it took off! Four beautiful deep red blooms and the stalk straightened out just fine. The other one planted at the same time is showing healthy leaves so far. I’m going to feed it as your directions indicate. So nice to see something colorful and alive at this time of year. Thanks for the article.

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