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Amaryllis bulbs can be planted in the fall, too

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Amaryllises have become known as a Christmastime flower as many home gardeners give and receive their bulbs as holiday gifts. But you don't have to wait until spring to plant them.

"Instead of planting amaryllises indoors in a pot, a better choice is to plant them in the garden," said C.B. Christian, northeast director of the Georgia Master Gardeners Association. "There they can produce flowers for up to 75 years."

Planting times, locations

Amaryllises require semishade and will grow in almost any soil as long as they receive adequate moisture and good drainage. Christian recommends planting bulbs in 6-inch amended raised beds.

"Optimally, planting in early October or late summer is recommended," he said. "However, any time after frost in the spring works well."

Bulbs should be planted about a foot apart. Half of the bulb should be left exposed.

Amaryllis bulbs multiply rapidly, so Christian recommends dividing the bulbs every three to five years. Dig up the bulbs and divide them after the foliage has died back.

"The newly divided bulbs can be used to expand your beds or to share with friends," Christian said. "You can also pot up a few in September for forcing as indoor winter blooming plants."

Care tips, uses

Fertilize amaryllises with a low-nitrogen fertilizer 5-10-10, 5-10-15 or 6-12-12, he said. Apply 1.5 pounds per 100 square feet of bed.

Too much nitrogen and too much shade will result in poor flowering. Make the first application when new growth begins, another when the stalks are 6-8 inches tall and another immediately after flowering.

Plants should be mulched heavily in the winter. In later March when new growth begins, carefully rake away the mulch.

Amaryllis blooms can be cut when partially open and placed in clear vases for enjoyment. The flowers will last for weeks in a clear vase, provided the water is changed daily, he said.

When the plants finish flowering, remove the flower stalks but not the leaves. "The plants need the leaves for photosynthesis to produce next year's blooms," Christian said.

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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