One of my favorite flowers at any time of year, but especially during the holiday season is the amaryllis or hippeastrum flower. These beautiful flowers resemble lilies a little bit and are grown from bulbs. If cared for properly you can store the bulbs and plant them again next year. In all honesty, my results with that have been mixed as I’m not consistent in my after bloom care.
The amaryllis variety that I’m planting this year is called double king. You can find them at Longfield Gardens as I did, or at a number of on-line sellers. I’ve not seen these at my local garden center, but they might be found at larger specialty centers. These are jumbo bulbs and I love the big, beautiful multi-layered “ruffled-ness” (which is a word that I’m making up) of the flowers. The red color will be the perfect complement to the holiday decorations I have planned.
In the past, I’ve typically planted amaryllis bulbs in plastic pots so that I can then slip them into fancier containers once they bloom. When the plant begins to look tired, I just take it out of the fancy container and put it in a less conspicuous spot.
I’ve been growing these in potting soil for years. The way I originally learned to grow them requires that you first soak the roots overnight in lukewarm to room temperature water. What I have found to work well is to take an ordinary disposable plastic cup (AKA a dixie cup) and fill it pretty close to the top with water. Then I simply perch the bulb on top of the cup. This way only the roots are exposed to the water and the bottom of the bulb remains dry. The benefit of soaking the roots is that you hydrate them and accelerate the growth process.
This year I’ve purchased three double king bulbs and my intention is to plant one now and the other two in a week or two. For the bulb I’m planting now, I am going to try growing the bulb in a clear glass container with decorative glass pebbles and water. I haven’t tried this before, but I think I will add a few drops of Superthrive liquid plant food to get things started. I’ll plant the other two bulbs as usual in potting soil. I highly recommend adding a bit of bulb food like Bulb Booster to nourish the bulbs just as you would if you were planting them outdoors in the garden. Check the package directions, but you only need a spoonful if you’re planting a single bulb in a small pot. You will want to ensure when you are using potting soil that you leave the top half of the bulb uncovered, but you do want to tamp down the soil so that the bulb doesn’t move.
You will need to be careful not to over water the pots. With the decorative pebbles, you just want to keep the water level steady and below the bulb itself so that it doesn’t rot.
As the bulbs sprout and grow you want to rotate them regularly so that they grow straight – if left in a single position they will contort themselves as needed in search of light. Having garden ties and bamboo stakes on hand is important to lend stability. The flowers can be very top heavy as you will have four blooms per stalk. Depending on the weather, I’ll either keep them inside or outside. This is tricky to plan in Southern California. Our daytime temperatures this past week have ranged from 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit – my apologies to those of you in cold climates. This is far too warm to put the pots outside, as the suggested growing temperature is 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit so in our climate it may require moving them back and forth between inside and outside as the weather changes. The typical time to bloom is four to six weeks, and I would say in our Southern California climate that these bloom at the shorter end of the range. One other thing I will say is that I often see bulbs in the large home and garden stores that have already sprouted due to the conditions they are in, and I typically stay away from these. I just don’t think you get the largest, prettiest bloomers that way.
At left, you see the supplies that I’ll be using for the pebbles and water planting. I supplemented the clear glass pebbles I had on hand with two different gold mixes — one which contained shiny pebbles and a second with matte pebbles. I will be mixing the three types for this planting. You also see a covered jar that I purchased for this project at my local discount store. This was tricky as the bulbs are so large I could not find a jar with a taller base that it would fit into. This may become a concern as the stalks on the double king are advertised as growing to 20 inches high.
I will also be planting narcissus bulbs – probably in gravel but I’ll decide once I recheck my supply of containers. I’ll keep you up to date on how my bulbs are doing and how I decorate with them during the holidays via Instagram so be sure to follow me. Let me know what bulbs you will be growing this holiday season by taking photos and tagging me on Instagram @imlivinthelifeinla so that I can enjoy your blooms!