‘Amaryllis’ (actually South American Hippeastrum)
Did you receive or purchase blooming potted ‘amaryllis’ or ‘paper whites’ this holiday season?
These bulbs are very popular gifts over the holidays and have been ‘forced’ to bloom at this time of year. Most people I know treat them like cut flowers and toss them out once they are finished blooming. But don’t throw them away! This is a gift that can keep on giving for many seasons to come in southern California if you know what to do.
‘Amaryllis’ (actually South American Hippeastrum) and ‘paper whites’ (a type of narcissus) are bulbs which if cared for properly will bloom again and, best of all, multiply! The easiest way to get them to bloom again in Southern California is to plant them outside in the garden.
‘Amaryllis’ like full sun and well drained soil. Plant the bulb with the top third above the soil. Do not cut off the leaves until they are completely withered because they are producing food for the next year’s blooms. I also keep them in pots outdoors, where they bloom for several years and produce side bulbs which I separate and pot up to produce new plants. The new plants may not bloom their first season, but will by the second year. This way I have plants to share every year. Note that the natural bloom time outdoors in southern California is late winter/early spring, not Christmas time.
‘Paper Whites’ need full to partial sun and well drained soil. Again, plant with the leaves intact about twice the depth of the bulb and spacing each bulb 4″ to 8″ apart. The natural bloom time for this bulb is mid to late fall in my southern California garden. It is such a treat to see them as not much else in the garden is blooming at that time of year. I love to cut them and bring them inside, but beware, some people (including my husband!) find the fragrance annoying.
‘Forcing’ bulbs for the next holiday season: Purchase new amaryllis or paper white bulbs in the fall and plant in containers six weeks before you want the bloom (ie: for December 25th bloom, plant mid November).