One of the best gifts ever for any gardener is an amaryllis bulb, truly the gift that keeps on giving. For $10-15, and sometimes less, even the most feckless gardener gets the pleasure of watching something grow; something that produces astonishingly beautiful, long-lasting flowers (sometimes with more than one scape or flower stem) – just when Toronto weather outside is at its most depressing.
It invokes a “Wow, did I do that?!?” kind of wonder.
After it blooms, you give the potted plant a summer vacation outdoors.
It will thank you for a bit of fertilizer as its leaves develop the food for next season’s flowers, but even feeding it isn’t essential.
All it asks is that you don’t over-water it.
Nothing makes a bulb unhappy so quickly as soggy soil.
In fall, simply stop watering.
Bring it indoors to a sunny or even semi-sunny window and watch the leaves die to shrivelled yellow straps. I specialize at this kind of treatment. Once the leaves are yellow, move the pot to a coolish, darkish place and forget it. Or nearly forget it.
Just about the time when you’re pining for spring, check on your amaryllis. It should be sending up a few green tips.
At this point, bring it back to your sunniest window and give it a dose of water.
Not too much – remember that caveat about sogginess. If the window isn’t hugely sunny, rotate the pot by one-quarter as the leaves and flower bud emerge. In a few weeks, you’ll have beauty on a stick!
And, if you do manage to kill your bulb, as I did one particularly rainy, sluggy summer, nothing could be easier to replace. In fact, it gives you the chance to try a whole new colour, of which there are many. Almost a reward for your negligence.