Many northern gardeners enjoy the blooms of amaryllis in winter, and some save the plants’ bulbs from year-to-year by letting them go dormant and storing them before bringing them out to force into bloom for another season. But, after Executive Director Rick Juliusson wrote about an amaryllis he had blooming in a recent enewsletter, a veteran northern gardener explained that amaryllis do not need a dormant period.
Henry Fieldseth, former MSHS board member and one of the folks behind the Friends School Plant sale, offered this advice.
“Remember that amaryllis are tropical understory plants that would prefer to be green throughout the year,” he noted.
To grow a really big amaryllis, re-pot it in May before you put it out for summer in part to full shade. (They can tolerate sun but then they need more attention.). Choose a pot that is much deeper than its current home to make room for the roots below the bulb.
The fleshy roots below the bulb are important and prefer not to dry out as happens in dormancy. One of the reasons for the basement treatment is the bulbs need some chill before they bloom. In Minnesota, they can get that from our cool fall evenings outdoors.
We leave ours outside until mid-October. They can tolerate a bit of frost, but bring them in before a serious freeze. If they loose a few leaves due to frost they will recover. In fact there are usually a number of leaves that yellow and need to be removed during the transition.
You will be amazed at how big the bulbs get and how many flower stems they throw.
If grown this way they need to be moved to bigger pots or divided every few years. Of course, moving the now huge pots in and out is a chore, but the flower show is worth it, he says.
The Amaryllis Manual
Henry explained that he got this advice from The Amaryllis Manual (McMillan, 1958) by Hamilton Traub. He says the advice to force dormancy originated with Dutch salesmen, who wanted gardeners to buy more bulbs rather than keep the ones they had and grow really big amaryllis. As Henry notes, “their advice works and gives gardeners a more convenient plant in that the small pot doesn’t take up much space, but you miss out on what the real potential of the plant.”