I like to think of myself as a champion of all flowers big or small, but when it comes to adding blooms to your home during the winter months the amaryllis wins my vote every time. The bloom size is only one of the attributes that makes this bulb so remarkable. Amaryllis are extremely easy to grow and thanks to Dutch hybridizers, there is a color and form to suit any décor. Newer cultivars include flower forms that are trumpet shaped or fully double. And the cybisters have narrow recurved petals that give the bloom a spidery look.
Amaryllis bulbs start showing up in garden centers in fall. When it comes to selecting them it's helpful to know that larger bulbs do make a difference. The 20 -24 cm bulbs (they are graded by the number of centimeters around the bulb) will often produce two stalks per bulb. A 28 cm bulb will always produce two stems and sometimes three! When you consider that each stalk can be crowned with 2 to 5 flowers you can understand why the amaryllis is considered the king of the indoor blooms.
To grow an amaryllis in your home, simply place the bulb in a container that is a few inches wider than the bulb. Fill with soil leaving approximately a quarter of the top of the bulb exposed. Water and place in a sunny location. You can also grow the bulbs in decorative gravel and water.
After a few weeks a long stalk will emerge from the bulb, and soon after a beautiful flower will bloom. It's important to have plenty of stakes on hand to give the flower stalk a little support because the blooms can be so large and top heavy they will topple, breaking the stalk.
While your amaryllis is in bloom, water when dry and to help the flowers last longer keep it away from sources of heat such as air vents and fireplaces. Once your amaryllis finishes flowering cut off the stalk, but leave the foliage. This will help reinvigorate the bulb so you will have plenty of blooms next year.
During the non-blooming part of its life treat it like an ordinary houseplant. And then in mid-October cut back the foliage, put it in a dark place, and stop watering. About a month later bring it out, begin watering, put it in full sun and presto, a whole new generation of flowers.
For a head turning arrangement cluster several amaryllis in a single large planter.
Pack 5 to 7 bulbs "shoulder to shoulder" in a large, shallow container.
When the blooms begin to unfold cover the soil with sheet moss or evergreens and berries for the holidays.