My first amaryllis bulb was a Christmas gift, many, many years ago. In early spring I watched the flower stem creep up and then blossom into four beautiful red trumpets; after that the sword-shaped leaves began to rise, the flowers faded, and I cut back the
stem. All that summer I watered the leaves. In September I stopped watering; as the leaves dried up I removed them. In November I put the bulb in its pot down in a dark corner of my basement, where it continued to dry. Occasionally I removed another dried leaf, until all were gone. On the first of February, I brought the bulb, still in its pot, into the light and began to water it again. I was rewarded: first a flower stem, then big red flowers, then more sword-shaped leaves.
I am trying to remember when I received that first amaryllis bulb. Were we still in our old house? Then it was 1975, because that’s when we moved into this house. But maybe it was only twenty years ago, or twenty-five. Over the years, I have tried to repeat the steps of care, but the care has not been consistent. One year I forgot to bring the bulbs up until mid-March; when I went down to get them, I found pale green leaves, almost white, coming up. Some years there were no flowers at all; some years the flowers came up long after the leaves, in July or August. In an inconsistent way, I have sometimes removed the bulbs from their pots and re-potted them in fresh soil. I have come to the conclusion that it’s best to re-pot in summer, when blooming is over. When I tried to repot in early spring, no blooms at all.
Did you notice that I have been writing “bulbs”? After a few years of caring for my first bulb, it produced a second, a little bulb growing right next to the big one. When this happened, I removed the bulb from the pot, very carefully separated the baby bulb, and re-potted both of them. That first “baby” survived. More babies followed. Sometimes I acquired a new plant, sometimes it didn’t work. I think the baby bulbs that failed were separated too soon. I now have five pots of amaryllis, all descendants of that first bulb, with two babies growing among them. One will be ready to separate after blooming is over; the other one will have to wait another year.
When I bring the bulbs up from the basement the first week of February, I keep them away from bright light until they have all sent something green into the world; then I put them in a south-facing window. Four of the bulbs have flower stems; two have two! I’m looking forward to six gorgeous blossoms. Only the smallest bulb has no blooms coming this year. Still I have hope for it–maybe next year. In late May or early June, I’ll take them all outside to a covered porch where they will get a few hours of sunshine every day. I’ll water them when I think of it, and feed them even less often.
For now, in a few days, they will look something like this photo from last year: One plant, on the right, had four blossoms. The bulb on the left produced only two. You can also see blossoms in stages of opening in the middle. (I took these pictures myself, transferred them to my computer, and then inserted them into my blog. I’m not a techie, but I did all that! I’m very proud of myself.)