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December 15, 2003



One thing you might infer from the conflicting advice is that different things work for different people, so you are right to try your own method. You might also research the plant's native climate for insight into its needs. But if amaryllis are forced into bloom like the narcissus are, then blooming at Christmas is not natural for them and they won't do it without special techniques that I am not privy to.It is my understanding that amaryllis either have to be a special kind or get special treatment to bloom around Christmas . . . except for the first year, mine always bloom in late March, just around crocus time. (For bloom around Christmas, I find Christmas cactus to be much more reliable. Also paperwhite narcissus--but the fragrance gives some people a headache.)

IMHO,I don't think it matters what temperature the air is, but the soil must be warm to get them out of dormancy. I use the same heat mat that I use for starting seeds. Once they are up out of the pot, they like it warm. When they bloom, you put them in a cooler room to slow down their metabolism and prolong the show. (I know, you want to put them in a warmer room then. The blooms just won't last as long.) After they are done blooming, the more light they get on their leaves, the better, because the more light, the more food produced to increase the size of the bulb and its ability to make flowers. For this reason, I put them outside after all danger of frost, breaking them in slowly to the stronger light and wind, etc. I have kept them in the pot and planted them in the ground. What makes the most difference is the richness of the soil and frequency of watering, so if you want to keep them in a pot, I would pot them on to the next size pot at this point, using good quality potting mix. In a nutshell, they like it bright, warm, moist, and rich. To make the most flowers, they need lots of roots and lots of leaves.

In the fall, I let the frost knock them down, then dig them up (or bring them in). I read somewhere that if they get frosted they do something better (bloom? go into dormancy? get out of dormancy?) but now I forget what. Perhaps because I dwell in a cool, drafty, under-insulated house, or perhaps because it is the nature of the plant, or perhaps my technique is faulty, but I never get my amaryllis to bloom before March. So pick over my technique for whatever will help, and discard whatever doesn't seem to apply.

Bookish Gardener

Many thanks, Kathy. I find that the best advice is exactly of the kind that you offer--"here's what worked for me". Although I always take advice with a grain of "your results may vary", what you say makes a ton of sense. We'll give it a go! I'll let you know how it turns out.

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