Amaryllis Insider Secrets
Ever wonder what really goes on inside amaryllis bulbs, under those mysterious layers of brown papery skin? Well, here's your answer — and knowing it can help you take better care of your amaryllis bulbs! It’s also a bit of geeky plant fun, let’s be honest here.
What is a bulb?
First it helps to know what you're even looking at. What is a bulb, exactly? It’s worth noting that many people use the word “bulb” to refer to all sorts of plants that have underground storage organs, like tubers, corms, and rhizomes. If you want to know all the differences, read this blog post, but otherwise, we’re kind of loose around here and will not call the Horticulture Police on you if you don’t use the “correct” term.
Now that we have the business part of this meeting done, let’s talks bulbs. A bulb is, essentially, a compressed plant stem (baby plant) surrounded by modified leaves. An onion is a bulb. You know how, if you leave onions in the fridge too long, they start sprouting? That's because they're bulbs.
Amaryllis are also bulbs, and if you cut one open, it will look a lot like the inside of an onion! Here's an amaryllis that's been sliced open so the plant-to-be is visible:
Image: Use the sliced-open bulb pic in the original blog post.
Tucked inside the bulbs are fledgling plants complete with flower stems, blossoms and foliage, all just waiting to grow up and out. Given warmth and just a little water to wake them up, they'll sprout and grow, drawing from the nutrient layers to fuel their initial activity. This is why it's not necessary for amaryllis to have extensive roots to produce their first set of blooms.
When you buy a bulb, it essentially has everything it needs inside in order to grow. After that, some bulbs have “chilling” requirements while others need a dormant period to rest. When your amaryllis bulbs are shipped to you in the fall, they’re ready to be planted and will eventually sprout a flower stalk or two.
How to Care for Amaryllis After Blooming
After your amaryllis stops blooming, there are a few things you can do to extend your enjoyment of it. But no worries, it’s easy peasy!
- Set it in a sunny windowsill so that it gets plenty of light. You'll see long, straplike leaves emerge. At that point, the Amaryllis becomes a nice, green houseplant. The leaves will photosynthesize (Who remembers that from school?) and make food to store for the next year's blooms.
- While fertilizing a growing amaryllis plant is essential for it to flourish, fertilizing an amaryllis bulb that has no leaves can actually kill the roots. Wait til you see the leaves forming and growing, then use a soluble fertilizer recommended for potted plants twice per month.
- Keep watering the amaryllis bulb as you did when the bulb was flowering, keeping the soil about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
- Plant your amaryllis bulb outside when it is finished blooming if you live in a warm climate (zone 8 or higher).
- In cooler regions, let your amaryllis grow through the summer and then give them a rest in the late summer and early fall.
Ready to grow your own amaryllis?
- Katie Elzer-Peters