Growing amaryllis in the desert |

Growing amaryllis in the desert

JoAnne Skelly
For the Appeal

Beautiful amaryllis make lovely holiday gifts. The 8- to 9-inch flowers, in gorgeous colors of red, salmon, pink, orange, creamy yellow and white, top 12- to 15-inch stems. Some varieties are striped or multicolored, and some are double-flowered or miniatures.

In areas with cold winters, amaryllis bulbs are planted indoors in containers from midfall through winter. They bloom six to eight weeks after planting. They require a sandy potting mix designed for bulbs. You can create a perfect mix by combining one part composted manure, one part loamy soil and one part coarse sand.

These bulbs like tight quarters, as far as containers are concerned. A pot is large enough when there is room for about 1 inch of soil between the bulb and the container. One-half to two-thirds of the bulb neck should remain above the soil. Make sure the top of the soil is at least one-half inch to 1 inch below the rim of the pot for watering purposes. Thoroughly water the bulb after planting it. Keep the soil slightly moist until it flowers then increase the amount of water.

Place the pot near, but not directly in, a southern window to provide the right amount of light for good flower production. An east or west window is second best. If you only have a north window, give the plant more light from a 100-watt bulb for a few hours each day. Amaryllis grow best at 70 F to 75 F. Once the plant begins to bloom, keeping it at about 65 F will prolong the flowers.

Fertilize amaryllis to increase the size and quality of the flowers and leaves. Use any liquid fertilizer at half strength at five- to six-week intervals. Too much fertilizer will result in leaves but no flowers.

To keep your plant for next year, cut the flower stalk to within 2 inches of the base after the flowers fade, but leave any foliage until it yellows. Leaves produce the food for next year’s flowers.

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Stop watering the plant by early October then cut off the leaves when they wilt. Place the plant in a warm dry place, out of the sun, until January and do not water or fertilize it during this rest period. In January, report the bulb with new soil and move it back to a southern window. Begin the watering and feeding process all over again.

An amaryllis may fail to bloom for a number of reasons:

• too much high nitrogen fertilizer

• the soil is too fertile

• the leaves were cut off before they turned yellow

• too much shade

• too much sun

• poor drainage and aeration

For more information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.