How to care for Amaryllis
Amaryllis bulbs make the perfect Christmas plant. They are incredibly easy to grow and come in fantastic, uplifting colours ranging from pure white through pink, salmon and deep red. Most people throw their amaryllis away once they've stopped flowering but it only takes a little bit of extra care and attention to save them for the following year.
Top tip: When choosing your amaryllis bulb, make sure that it's firm. If it's soft, this could mean it's starting to rot. Bear in mind that larger bulbs tend to mean that the plant will have larger flowers.
Planting your amaryllis bulbs
If your amaryllis bulb didn't come packaged in a pot, choose one that's deep enough to give the roots adequate room – around 8 inches deep and just an inch or so wider than the bulb itself is best for an average-sized bulb. You'll also need to make sure that the pot is heavy enough to hold your amaryllis and that it has sufficient drainage.
You can plant your bulb any time from October right through until April to get flowers from late December to the end of June. Flowering should take place around 7 to 10 weeks after planting. If you aren't planting your amaryllis bulb straight away, make sure that it's stored in a cool, dry place (below 10°C).
Once you're ready to plant your amaryllis you'll need to rehydrate the roots. Do this by placing your bulb on top of a cup of water so that only the roots get wet. Make sure that the body of the bulb itself stays dry to avoid rotting. Leave the bulb like this for around an hour to give it a good drink before potting.
Amaryllis prefer a very well-drained soil high in organic matter, so a mixture of equal parts well-rotted manure, loam soil and perlite is ideal. You'll want to fill the bottom of your plant pot and then lower in your rehydrated bulb, filling it in so that the top third of the bulb is left uncovered.
Caring for amaryllis
Place your potted amaryllis in a warm place with lots of direct light. Water it sparingly at first. Until the stem appears the roots won't have developed enough to take in much water and any excess could cause rot.
Continue to water more frequently as the buds and leaves appear but make sure that the soil isn't overly wet.
Flowers will develop after the stem has reached full growth. A stake can sometimes be helpful for keeping the stem upright, especially when the plant has particularly large flowers.
What to do after flowering
Once the amaryllis has finished flowering you can prepare it for flowering again next year. Do this by cutting the stem back to around 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the top of the bulb.
You should continue to water your amaryllis and only begin to add fertiliser once the leaves have started to grow back. Continue to feed on a regular basis over the summer and give it as much sunlight as possible. Around the middle to end of August stop watering your amaryllis to encourage it to die back.
Once the leaves start to go yellow and die back in the autumn, cut them back and remove the bulb from the pot. Clean off all of the dead roots and soil then trim away all of the old roots. Label your bulbs and store in a cool, dry, dark place for a minimum of 6 weeks.
Top tip: If your bulb has baby bulbs attached, don't separate these, as they will still be feeding off the main bulb and will grow to full blooming size much quicker if still attached. If the smaller bulbs do become separate then that's fine but just keep them together if you can help it.
After the 6 weeks your bulbs will be ready for re-potting so that they can be brought to flower again.