Alys Fowler’s tips on growing hippeastrum or amaryllis
- The best amaryllis bulbs are plump and feel heavy and dry. Buy the largest bulbs you can as these produce the biggest blooms. There should be no signs of mould or rot, particularly around the neck of the hippeastrum. The fleshy roots can be soaked for several hours in water; balancing the bulb on a jam jar of warm water is easiest, but make sure the base of the bulb doesn’t get wet.
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- Hippeastrums like to be overcrowded. Ideally, plant your amaryllis in a pot that’s only an inch or two wider than the bulb, but deep enough for the roots. You can make a stunning centrepiece by planting several bulbs close together.
- Plant the bulb with its shoulders proud of the soil: two thirds below, one third above. This makes the hippeastrum bulbs less prone to rot.
- Use grit or sand to improve drainage in your potting compost. Being heavier than perlite, grit or sand make the pot less likely to fall over. Mix at least one part grit or sand to two parts bulb compost or good quality multipurpose compost.
- Top-dress with grit as this deters compost flies and draws water away from the amaryllis bulb.
- Give the hippeastrum bulb a good soak and leave alone. More amaryllis bulbs are killed by over-watering then anything else, particularly cybister types. Be patient; it can take time for growth to appear, but on no account water them again.
- When you see the first shoots emerging, start watering again, using a liquid fertilizer. Keep the water away from the crown, as this is prone to rot. Never water more than once a week; give it a soak and then no more until the pot is dry. Water from the top, not the bottom.
- The warmer the conditions, the quicker the hippeastrum bloom will appear. If it’s too warm and dark you get a long, floppy stem. The ideal temperature is 22°C. Once the bloom is out, it will last longer if you move the plant somewhere cool.