The Amaryllis Among Us

spring-blooming amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.)

spring-blooming amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.)

Q: I received a potted amaryllis with four large bulbs in it as Christmas gift. The last bulb is ready to bloom. I would appreciate information on what I should do when it is done blooming. Should I keep the pot inside, as it has been since I received it, or plant the bulbs in the ground outside? I live in the northeast San Fernando Valley (Mission Hills), and my back yard has a southern exposure.
Also, when you said to give each rose bush a cup of Epsom salts and lots of manure, did you mean to do that instead of using a commercial fertilizer?
– Ceil
A: The giant amaryllis (Hippeastrum) you describe is one of the most spectacular flowering plants available to Valley gardeners. It is underutilized, no doubt, because of a misconception as to its hardiness. On account of its voluptuous flowers and tropical foliage, it has an unjustified reputation for being finicky and temperamental.
Although it is the classic winter gift plant – and should be kept indoors after you receive it until spring arrives – it can definitely be acclimated to garden conditions. If you plant it in the ground this spring, it should have built up the capacity to tolerate cold by the time next winter comes.
The most spectacular display of amaryllis I have seen was in an 8-foot- wide by 15-foot-long flower bed that separated two driveways in Burbank. There was a deciduous tree growing there, and the exposure was to the east, so that the amaryllis saw nothing but morning sun and was protected by the tree from extreme heat and cold.
There must have been several hundred amaryllis trumpet flowers in pink, salmon, red-orange and white in this single area; it was a jaw-dropping sight. I do not believe there are any flowers we can grow in the Valley that are larger or more dramatic than amaryllis, whose trumpet-shaped blooms flare out to 8 inches or more across.
You mention that your back yard has a southern exposure. Hopefully you have a tall tree there in whose partial shade you could plant your amaryllis. Although I have seen amaryllis plants grow in full sun, they do so with difficulty; they flower briefly, but not at full capacity, and their foliage burns as summer arrives. By the same token, amaryllis will suffer from an excess of shade and bloom reluctantly, if at all, unless they receive at least half a day’s worth of bright sun.
You can keep your amaryllis in a container for years, the more root- bound the better. Change its soil each fall and add plenty of phosphate fertilizer to give you lots of flowers when it blooms.
NOTE: Do not get the giant amaryllis mentioned here confused with the naked lady (Amaryllis belladonna) that blooms in the late summer or early fall. The plants, while related, have much different cultural and climatic requirements.
EPSOM AND MANURE: You ask if Epsom salts and manure applications to roses are a substitute for commercial fertilizer. Epsom salts and manure prime your roses for that first flush of growth and bloom in the spring. To keep your plants blooming, you will want to fertilize them frequently throughout the growing season. Commercial rose growers fertilize every time they water. A highly recommended practice is to use a slow-release fertilizer such as Mag-Amp in conjunction with quick-acting water-soluble or liquid fertilizers.
The manure that you put down at this time of year will serve as a soil amendment since it will sustain beneficial, humus-producing micro-organisms that keep your soil oxygenated and aerated. Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is an essential element in the chlorophyll molecule and will help keep leaves green; sulfate will acidify soil pH which, in our part of the world, tends to be too alkaline.
TIP OF THE WEEK: If you plant ground cover this time of year, you can keep your watering to a once a week schedule if you mulch in between your new plants. Use straw, nitrolyzed redwood shavings, or cedar mulch for this purpose. The mulch will not only minimize watering but keep weeds from getting a foothold and minimize soil erosion as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.