It all began when a timid nymph named Amaryllis swooned over a handsome Greek shepherd named Alteo, who failed to see her charms. The oracle of Delphi advised Amaryllis to show up at Alteo’s door and pierce her heart with a golden arrow. When she did, a lovely scarlet flower bloomed in the blood dripping from her wound.
The plant we call amaryllis didn’t get to Europe until the 1800s, but the legend still fits the bloom—as flowers go, amaryllis is a heartbreaker. There are hundreds of hybrids and cultivars with single and double flowers that show up in a multitude of colors—red, white, orange, yellow, green, and rose—and some are striped. If you live in the sunny South—Zones 8–10—you can keep the bulbs in the garden year-round and enjoy springtime blooms. Unlike most other forced bulbs, with rest and proper care, amaryllis bulbs will bloom again.
A single bulb can produce a succession of stems, each topped with as many as six blooms. Try planting three bulbs of the same variety in a single pot for a show that lasts for months. In the photo above (left to right), ‘Amorice’, ‘Ice Queen’, and ‘Mega Star’ prove the old adage “the more the merrier.”
Editor's Tip: Keep open flowers out of direct sun and high heat, with temperatures between 55° and 70° F.
Place potting mix in a tub and sprinkle with lukewarm water. Stir the soil and water together until the mixture moist but not soggy. Cover the drainage hole with a square of mesh screen to keep dirt from escaping.
Fill the container halfway with damp potting mix. Don't pack down the soil as you go. Only filling halfway makes it easier to place the bulb without disturbing it too much.
Nestle the bulb into the center of the container. If you’re planting more than one amaryllis in the same container, place bulbs shoulder to shoulder. The bulbs should be firm and plump with healthy roots at the bases.
Fill in with more potting mix, but leave the top third of the bulb uncovered. Tamp firmly but gently around the bulb to settle the potting mix. Water well, being careful not to wet the exposed top of the bulb. Label so you’ll remember the variety name.
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