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How to care for your amaryllis so it keeps blooming after the holidays

Justina Huddleston is an editor and the head writer for TDmonthly Magazine. She has been a freelance writer for several years, though her real passion is cooking. You can see the recipes she creates on her vegan food blog, A Life of Litt...

Say hello to amaryllis, the new ‘it’ holiday plant to give and receive

The crimson, pink or white amaryllis flowers during mid-winter, making it one of the only ways to add a pop of living color to your home while the rest of your house plants are taking a break from flowering until warmer weather arrives. With proper care, they can flower for 7 to 10 weeks, making them the perfect antidote to your winter blues.

If you're like me, the thought of keeping a plant alive for a whole year may sound kind of daunting. I mean, I've killed supposedly indestructible air plants and watched cacti wither before my eyes. And a plant with flowers... it sounds tricky!

But caring for red amaryllis isn't all that hard. Follow these simple care tips, and you'll have a pot of cheery flowers to put a smile on your face for many winters to come. Let's do this!

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Selecting a plant

Potted

Look for a plant with healthy green leaves, free of any blemishes or brown tips. Choosing a plant that has buds but isn't yet in full bloom is the best way to enjoy most of the plant's flowering season.

Bulbs

Look for large bulbs that are dry and firm to the touch. The bulbs should be free of any scars, blemishes and mold.

Plant the bulbs in a pot not more than 1 inch larger than the bulb. They should be planted with half of the bulb above the surface of the soil. For soil, look for a mix that drains well and contains plenty of organic matter. Keep the plant in direct sunlight until its buds start to turn crimson. Then, move it to an area with bright but indirect sunlight.

Amaryllis will take six to eight weeks to bloom once the bulb has been potted. To speed up the process, try watering with warm water and keeping the pot in a warm, full-sun area.

Fertilizer

Potted bulbs should not be fertilized until stalks begin to grow.

Store-bought potted amaryllis plants and bulbs showing stalk growth should be fertilized regularly with a high-phosphorous soil.

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Sunlight

Before flowering, the plant should be kept in a warm, bright, sunny spot until its buds turn color.

After buds turn color, place the plant in bright but indirect sunlight.

Water

Amaryllis should be watered when the top two inches of the soil is dry. Don't let it stand in any extra water, or the bulb can rot. Make sure your amaryllis is in a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom.

What do you do when the flowers fall of?

Cut off any blooms that have wilted and died, and remove stalks that turn yellow. Even when all of the blooms have died, water the plant when the soil gets dry, fertilize it and keep it in bright sunlight. This will help the bulbs store enough energy to start producing blooms again the next year.

In the early fall (September), put your amaryllis plant in a cool, dimly lit place. A basement works well, as long as the temperature doesn't get too close to freezing. As the plant goes dormant, its leaves may wilt and turn yellow — cut these off at their bases. Don't water your plant during this phase.

About 6 to 8 weeks before you want your plant to bloom (mid-October to late October for Christmas blooms), bring your amaryllis pot back into a sunny spot. Water it thoroughly, add some fresh soil, and wait for new stalks to reappear. Once they do, fertilize regularly and continue caring for your plant as you did in the previous year.

With a little time and patience, your holiday amaryllis plant can provide you with cheery winter blooms for years to come.

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