Recycle your amaryllis


Many of you received or purchased amaryllis flowers during the holiday season. Unfortunately many of these get discarded after they have finished flowering. This is a shame for with a little care, they will bloom for many years. I personally have flowering bulbs which are well over ten years old. Another plus is that they multiply.

Now for the basics which are quite simple.

After the flowers have finished blooming, cut them off at the top of the stem where each flower is on a small separate stem, the main stem will wither away.

Keep watering the pot and leaves will grow tall. At this point, you may need to put a stake in to support them and prevent them from flopping over. At this time, you can give the pots a little fertilizer. Do not cut off the leaves.

When all danger of frost has passed, usually about mid-May in Chicago, the bulbs can be put out in a sunny spot in the garden.  There are two ways of doing this. One is to sink the pots into the ground, leaving the bulbs in their pots. In this case, work a little bone meal into the soil in the pots.

The other is to remove the bulbs from the pots and plant them into the ground. I prefer the latter. If this method is chosen, add a small handful of bone meal into the hole and mix it into the soil, this encourages flower growth for next year. Do not plant the bulbs too close or the roots will become entangled and it will be difficult to lift them without damaging the roots.

About mid-October, it is time to lift the bulbs. If the bulbs are in pots, take them indoors to a fairly cool dark dry spot. Do not water them. Let the leaves die down. If the bulbs are in the ground, carefully lift them with a fork, avoiding as much damage to the roots as possible.

Bring them indoors and lay them out on a bench or table to die down and rest. I personally have a bench in the basement where I do this with a window at one end. I noticed the ones nearest the window would not die down owing to the light, so now I put a piece of black plastic over the window.

You may notice that when you lift the bulbs some have small bulbs attached. If they are firmly attached to the mother bulb leave them, on the other hand, if they break off do not worry. When the time comes to replant them, put them in a pot with other small bulbs and they will grow on.


Various stages of buds are shown. Note there are two blooming stalks.

In early December it is time to start them moving. Cut off any dead leaves. If they are still in the original pots just water them. If you lifted them from the  ground, remove the dead leaves and clean the bulbs taking care not to damage the roots,

Before repotting, stand the bulbs in a tray of slightly warm water for ten or fifteen minutes before repotting. This gives them quite a jump start and also softens the root making them easier to repot. This also applies to new bulbs you purchased from the garden center.

Enjoy your recycled bulbs! As a point of interest, this year I have almost thirty flowers and have not purchased a new bulb in years


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