Hippeastrum hybrids, more commonly referred to as Amaryllis, are a firm favourite around Christmas and New Year. Specially prepared bulbs planted at the end of October or early November should show results around Christmastime or early in the new year.
The large trumpet-shaped blooms are a truly spectacular sight forming on tall stems which rise up from the centre of the strap-shaped foliage. There is a wide range of colours available including striped, bi-coloured and frilly petalled forms.
The blooms will last for many weeks if the bulbs are kept in a warm and bright spot. The flowering stem will possibly need supporting with canes as the weight of the blooms can sometimes cause the stem to break.
When the bulb is blooming, water the compost well each time the surface starts to dry out adding feed about once a week. When flowering has finished, remove the old flowering stem and concentrate on building up the bulb ready for another year. To do this continue to water and feed the bulb until early autumn then stop watering and allow the foliage to die down completely. Store the bulb in a dry state in a frost-free spot until early spring when watering can be resumed and the pot moved back to a warmer room. Replace some of the surface compost at this stage and re-pot completely every couple of years or so. A soil-based compost like John Innes No2 is best as it will add stability to the pot. With age the bulbs may develop some offsets, these can be removed and planted up seperately at the same time as re-potting.
Prepared bulbs from the previous year will revert to their normal early spring-flowering time.
Amaryllis bulbs can be kept for many years with the correct aftercare.