“The flowers faded months ago, but I can’t bear to throw it out. I’d like to save it and see if I can get it to bloom again. What should I do?”
Blooming Amaryllis bulbs make spectacular holiday gifts and the recipients invariably want to keep the plants in hopes of a repeat performance and to honor the gift giver. It’s not really all that difficult to do because amaryllis are pretty forgiving plants. All they need to bloom again is a season in the garden to replenish the bulbs. Giving the bulbs a summer vacation of fresh air, sunshine, and moist, fertile soil is the best way to keep them healthy and to increase their size and flowering potential.
If the bulbs have been living on a windowsill all winter, it’s important to give them a slow transition to outdoor living. They need a couple weeks of protected exposure to the sun and wind to toughen up and prepare for life in the garden. For the first week, put the potted plants outdoors in a shady place out of the wind. If the night temperatures get too chilly, bring them indoors in the evening and set them back out in the morning. In the second week, introduce them to morning sun or full exposure on cloudy days. Continue to protect the foliage from hot midday and afternoon sun. Keep the soil in the pot barely moist during this transition time.
After the threat of frost has passed, choose a garden site with well-drained, fertile soil that gets four to six hours a day of morning sun and afternoon shade. Avoid hot, sunny areas. To encourage strong root and bulb growth, mix a slow-release bulb fertilizer or 5-10-10 garden fertilizer into the planting soil. Be sure to follow the recommended application rate.
Tip the plant carefully out of its pot and gently unwind any circling roots. Set the plant into the garden soil so that the neck of the bulb is above ground. Backfill with the amended soil, firm it gently, and water thoroughly. Protect from slugs and snails.
During the summer, apply a liquid fertilizer every six weeks. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. The goal is to keep the bulb growing vigorously. Strong foliage feeds the bulb and produces more flower stems and buds.
In late summer, usually by mid- to late August, stop watering and fertilizing the amaryllis plant. Let the foliage die back naturally, but protect it from freezing. In September—or if frost threatens—dig the bulb from the garden and plant it in a pot indoors. Let the soil in the pot dry out and the foliage die back. Store the bulb in a cool, dark and dry place for a minimum of two months.
About five to eight weeks before you want the amaryllis to flower again, resume watering—sparingly at first. Once you see sprouting, increase watering and place the pot in a cool place with bright, indirect light.
For more information, read Growing Bulbs Indoors.