By Francesca Filanc, for Let’s Talk Plants! December 2022.
Editor's note: Francesca wrote about amaryllis earlier this year in the July 2022 issue of Let's Talk Plants! Here's that article: GARDEN SURROUNDINGS: Amaryllis (sdhortnews.org) and, because of that article, she was asked to write one for a local San Diego County magazine called About Town. Maybe you saw it? If not, click the link.
Because of her magical experience, I chose to plant my new Jeffrey Stewart, Human Hands Pottery, planter that I got at the November meeting with amaryllis. If you want to do something similar, Jeff will be at the December meeting on the 12th at CBI with more of his beautiful pottery for sale. Hope to see you in-person!
Amaryllis is a bulbous plant with white, pink, or red flowers and strap-shaped leaves, of the genus Amaryllidaceae. In Greek mythology, the amaryllis originated from the love Amaryllis had for Alteo. Amaryllis, a young woman, fell in love with the shepherd Alteo. He was strong, handsome and had a passion for flowers. To learn how to win his affection, Amaryllis went to the Oracle of Delphi for advice. She was instructed to pierce her heart nightly for thirty nights as she stood outside Alteo’s home. On the thirtieth night a striking flower sprung from the blood of Amaryllis’ heart and Alteo fell in love. Luckily, we don’t have to go to those lengths to enjoy these beautiful flowers!
Trader Joe’s has amaryllis bulbs wrapped in colorful red or silver wax during the holiday season. They are quite reasonable in price and make lovely gifts. You might have bought one or more of these waxed amaryllis for yourself or someone you love. What a beautiful display for Christmas or Hanukkah in one’s home and/or to give as a lovely hostess gift. One can also find them in markets and nurseries around Passover and Easter, where the white and pink ones are used in the springtime.
As a toddler of two and a half years old, I remember the amazing scent of flowers known as Naked Ladies that bloom at the end of summer through early fall in California. Little did I know that these are also amaryllis. That scent from my childhood brings me right back to Claremont, CA, and the happiness I experienced.
The directions for growing amaryllis that you buy wrapped in wax are to put them somewhere in your home where they get indirect light. Last December, I bought several to give as gifts and one for myself too. The amaryllis bulb that I bought in December and kept for myself felt like magic this year. I have been amazed that it has bloomed six times. Several times with two blossoms! At one point I thought, “how can it live many months without water and give all these beautiful leaves and blossoms?” So, I tried putting water where the stem meets the wax. And then I thought, “Fran, the water might rot the plant.” There was no way to get the water down to the roots of the bulb. So, I quickly turned it over in the sink and tried to dry off the area. Luckily, the plant did not die. I found out that the bulb has enough liquid in it to allow it to put up more leaves, bloom, spike, and bloom again.
During these difficult and trying times this amazing magical bulb has brought a smile to my lips and joy to my heart. Next time you buy amaryllis bulbs for gifts and yourself, you might want to try doing what I did; after the bulb blooms, cut off the spike. Cut off the leaves too when they look dead. You might have the same magic response that I had last year. My bulb has bloomed six times and is growing leaves to bloom again, all over an eight-month period of time! The bulb has all the water and nutrients inside itself to possibly bloom multiple times. When it is finally done putting out new stock and leaves throw it away, its life is finished.
If you buy one in the nursery or market that is in a pot, those can be planted in the ground for next year in our temperate climate. And those need to be watered. The ones in wax stay in the house with indirect light until their life is done. From the time you buy the amaryllis bulb in wax it takes three to six weeks to grow the leaves and bloom spike. If you buy one at the nursery in a pot it is often blooming or about to bloom.
There are twenty-one varieties of amaryllis and they come in many colors. They also come in variegated shades. When you go to Trader Joe’s this December look for the amaryllis in brightly colored red and silver wax. Buy several for gifts and at least one for yourself. When you go to someone’s home for dinner it makes a lovely hostess and host gift. You can tell your friends about what I discovered this past year, and they too might experience the seeming magic of the amaryllis bulb!
The amaryllis commonly means determination, beauty, and love. There never were truer words spoken. The amaryllis that I bought last December is pushing up green leaves. It probably has run its course and I will be heading to Trader Joe’s to buy new ones for this season.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Joyful Gardening,