Save your Christmas amaryllis and plant it outdoors in your Southwest landscape! (Only if it doesn’t get below 15 degrees F where you live). Amaryllis will grow and bloom for years to come. But! Don’t do this in winter – wait just a bit.
Amaryllis are from…
You have heard me rant about common names before. Sadly this is another case of the common name being applied to two different plants. Luckily they are in the same family at least. Many “amaryllis” are technically in the genus Hipppeastrum – from South America. But just to confuse you further – a number of “amaryllis” are indeed Amaryllis – and they come from South Africa! Care of the two genera is slightly different so I’m going to tell you what works for me for both – here in my Middle Desert garden.
Save the Bulbs Indoors for Now
Bulbs that have been at indoor room temperature will die if exposed to temps below 55, yes even if they are in a cozy bed of soil. (I killed a few that way.) Keep the bulbs growing inside until the night temps outside will reliably stay above 55 degrees. In Low Desert this will be around March 1. In Middle Desert wait till St. Patrick’s Day.
Yes the leaves will get really long an leggy in the lower light indoors. Do NOT cut the leaves or the bloom stalk, or fertilize them. Just let them be.
Amaryllis Are Picky About Outdoor Space
There are two equally important issues that must be addressed – soil and shade.
Soil – Amaryllis of all kinds need well-drained soil. If they stay too wet they will rot.
Shade – Afternoon shade in summer is required in the Southwest or they will bake and die.
Remember – you are only doing this if it doesn’t get below 15 degrees F where you live.
Plant Deeply Enough
Once you found that perfect site – planting depth is important. When amaryllis are Christmas plants you put them in a little pot with their noses above ground. Don’t do this outdoors in the Southwest no matter what they do elsewhere. (Killed two more that way).
In the Southwest – with our low humidity – plant amaryllis with the tip of the bulb right at the soil line. Then add an inch of well-draining mulch that protects them from excessive heat and cold. I currently use cedar bark mulch. In my former house I used downed leaves from the shrubs the bulbs were tucked around.
Patience is Required
When you first plant your amaryllis outdoors – allow the long leaves to fall all around the plant and do lots of photosynthesis and send lots of energy down into the bulb so it can continue it’s life. Not pretty in the garden to start with but once the bulb has enough stored energy, it will allow those leaves to die and it will grow thick beautiful new leaves that are more compact and tidy. The bulb also have enough energy to bloom next year.
Three More Amaryllis Tips for the Southwest
Plant amaryllis at least a foot apart. Those big bulbs need some elbow room to grow well.
You can fertilize established bulbs with all your landscape plants – Easter, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. A general purpose fertilizer is best.
Some people suggest cutting off the bloom stalk (deadheading) – but it is not necessary. It is green and does photosynthesis just like the leaves do. Deadheading is only necessary if the plant in question re-blooms in the same season, like roses.
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