Legend has it that the amaryllis - the stunning red flower we've come to associate with the holidays - began as a shy, timid nymph. Amaryllis fell deeply in love with Alteo, a shepherd with Hercules' strength and Apollo's beauty, but her affections were unrequited. Hoping that she could win him over by bestowing upon him the thing he desired most - a flower so unique it had never existed in the world before - Amaryllis sought advice from the oracle of Delphi.
Following his instructions, Amaryllis dressed in maiden's white and appeared at Alteo's door for 30 nights, each time piercing her heart with a golden arrow. When at last Alteo opened his door, there before him was a striking crimson flower, sprung from the blood of Amaryllis's heart. With this romantic - albeit tragic - tale as its beginning, it's not surprising that today the amaryllis has come to symbolize pride, determination and radiant beauty.
These tall stems have blooms on them for one to two weeks. To care for them as a cut flower, recut the stems and change the water frequently keeping it shallow.
How to Force:
- Choose a container that is short and wide to support the tall stems of the amaryllis. Tall slender pots will tip when the stems get tall. For best results, make sure it has good drainage or holes in the container.
- Plant bulb in good soiless potting soil with 1/3 of bulb above soil surface.
- Water lightly. Then keep moist, letting the top soil surface dry before re-watering.
- Place bulb in a spot with bright light and occassional direct sun. Prefers temperatures 65°-75°F.
- Be aware that too little light will cause a long and spindly flower; conversely, too much light will cause a short stem.
- When blooms are partially open, reduce the direct light to lengthen the bloom time.
- Remove anthers to prolong life of flower.
After flower care:
Leaf Growth and Development. Continue to water and fertilize as normal all summer, or for at least 5-6 months, allowing the leaves to fully develop and grow. In May after danger of frost has past, you may move it to a part shade location outdoors. You may keep it in the pot and sink it in the ground. When the leaves begin to yellow, which normally occurs in the early fall, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil. You can also keep it indoors.
Bulb Storage. Clean the bulb and place it in a cool (40-50 deg. F), dark place for a minimum of 6 weeks. Basements are good choices, and even the back of a closet will work. You are trying to force your bulbs to take a rest, to slip into a few weeks of dormancy before starting a new flowering cycle. During this period, withhold all water. Store the bulbs for a minimum of 6 weeks as long as 12 weeks.
Plant Again. After the bulbs have rested for 6-12 weeks, start the growing cycle over just as you did when your first planted the bulbs. Replace the soil with fresh mix, remove any dead leaves and old, peeling bulb sheaths (these look like the dried, outer skins on an onion) and replant, again with the bulb shoulders exposed. Place your bulbs in bright light and give them one good drink of water. The combination of light and water will "wake up" the plants and encourage them to start growing again. When the first little leaves appear, and not before, begin watering regularly. (If you give a steady supply if water to a bulb with no foliage, the bulb will rot.) Flowers usually form 4-6 weeks from dormant bulbs so plan accordingly from when you want them to flower for the season.