I don’t know about you, but my 6-year-old can ask about a million questions a minute. True story. It usually starts innocent enough, but trust me when I tell you, the little guy keeps me on my toes and calls me on any inconsistencies that may creep in because I’m at my question answering limit. The past few months he has been asking me about my Amaryllis plant.
Normally I have a very black thumb, and by that I mean most plants die within weeks of landing at my front door. But I have yet to kill this one, and my son is absolutely fascinated with its growing process since it’s a bulb plant, and probably the first one of its kind that he’s ever had the experience of watching growing.
He was there to watch me unbox it. I answered questions such as “Where did the dirt come from?” and “Why does that plant look like that?” My answers “the store” and “because it’s a bulb plant like what an onion looks like” were the first of many, many questions that day. “Why is it so dry and rough?” “Can I peel it like an onion?” “Will it make us cry like an onion?”
I explained that in order for this plant to grow properly it had to have its roots pointing down, and the spot where the leaves and flower would sprout pointing up, and he was very excited to help figure out which way was up and to hold the bulb in place while I poured dirt around it “Why did you put dirt in first then the bulb, then put more dirt around it?” and, “Can we water it every day?” but was very disappointed when I told him that it would be weeks before we saw anything grow out of the bulb stump.
We may not have a big garden full of flowers to look at during the darkest of the winter months, but there’s something to be said about the whole winter gardening process as a learning experience and fun family activity. I think next winter I’ll surprise him with an Amaryllis bulb of his very own to grow alongside mine.
How to Sprout Amaryllis Bulbs for Your Winter Garden
1 – Follow the box instructions for planting your Amaryllis bulb. Kits can usually be purchased at your local grocery store in the late fall/early winter and come with 1 bulb, 1 bag of dirt, and one bulb.
2 – Once planted, place the pot in a sunny location and water it until damp (but do not over-water since the pot has no drainage!), usually about half a cup of water, once every other day or so.
3 – Within a few weeks, you will notice leaves and/or a flower bulb start to sprout, continue to water the plant as usual. Your flower stem will always lean towards the sun (quite dramatically sometimes!) so rotate the pot when you water it to keep the stem as straight as possible.
4 – The flowers will bloom in sets of 4 (2 and then 2 more) from each stem and last about a week each. When the bloom has been spent, cut them off at their individual bases. Once all 4 blooms have come and gone, leave the stalk for up to a week, then you can cut it off at the base, near the top of the bulb. Be careful! The long stem is hollow and can be full of water, so it may splash when you cut it off. Alternately, you can leave the stem alone and it will eventually start to dry up and fall over on it’s own, at which point you can then cut it off.
5 – If your plant has also grown some leaves (anywhere from 1 – 4), leave those to grow as long as possible. These leaves will grow happily for several months and are important for your bulb, as these leaves are making and storing energy in the bulb for next year’s bloom. Once the leaves start to die off, you can cut them off and prepare to hibernate your bulb for next year.
6 – Amarylis bulbs only bloom once a year. In order to hibernate them during the summer, gently pull the bulb out of the pot and shake the dirt off the bulb and roots. Discard the remaining soil (or save for another use) and place the bulb back into the empty pot, or into a paper bag and into the empty pot. Keep your bulb, through the spring, summer and fall, in a cool, dark, dry place like the back of a closet. In the late fall, you can re-pot your bulb and start the bloom growing from step one all over again! Your bulb, when taken care of, will grow for you every year. You may not get a flower bloom every year, but when you do they’ll be spectacular!