amaryllis seedlings

Michael Mace
Sun, 13 May 2012 13:43:03 PDT
This Amaryllis discussion reminds me of the old saying that the only thing
you can ever truly say about gardening technique is "here's what works for

In that spirit, a couple of thoughts.

First, Kathleen, congratulations on the success of your seedlings so far!  I
am especially impressed that you have been able to keep them in growth.  The
big issue with Amaryllis is how loooooong they take to mature to blooming
size, so the year-round growth will help you a lot.  In fact, my first
recommendation is that you keep them growing for as long as you can this

When you do plant them out, make sure you give them a lot of room.  The
bulbs will grow to the size of softballs (pomelos for those of you outside
the US) before they bloom, and they'll make offsets.  If they are too
crowded they won't bloom as freely, or at all.

Second, I am not sure that any of us have answered your actual question:

>> My question is: when are the bulbs large enough to survive outside in
zone 8? Two inches wide? Or?

Unfortunately, since I am in Zone 9, I can't really answer that.  The danger
to the plants, as I'm sure you know, is heavy frost (below 20F).  If you
have a relatively sheltered spot for them, they should be big enough to
plant out now.  But the trick is finding a place that's both sheltered and
has a *lot* of light in winter, because the bulbs need that in order to
bloom.  I am not as worried about providing summer drought for them, because
you do get a little bit of droughtiness in summer.  But I'd give them very
good drainage.  They can't soak in summer, that's for sure.

Third, I wanted to weigh in on the issue that everyone has been talking
about, when to disturb the plants.  I've found that many Amaryllids, and
especially the Belladonna hybrids, are incredibly tough.  As in, you could
set off a bomb under one of them, it flies through the air for a couple of
miles, lands upside down and smoking, and it'll probably sprout the next

However, I've had several instances where I had an Amaryllid that survived
almost total neglect for years, and then suddenly died after I tried to give
it a bit of tender loving care.  The most common situation seems to be when
I repot them during dormancy.  Every time I've done that, I have lost a
significant minority of the bulbs.  Either they never sprout, or they come
up feebly and then die.

The theory among some growers is that the plants are vulnerable if they get
root damage when fully dormant.  I don't know if they get a disease or if it
just hurts their vigor, but that seems to be the case sometimes.  In my
experience, the best time to transplant or repot Amaryllis (and maybe most
Amaryllids) is when they're just starting to grow in the Autumn.  For the
belladonna hybrids I do it right after they finish blooming, just as the
leaves start to grow.  At that time they seem to tolerate disturbance very
well, and I rarely have any losses.

So, if you ask me, I'd go ahead and plant out those seedlings, and make sure
they are in a very sunny spot that nevertheless has some frost protection --
but don't do it until this autumn.
Hope that helps,

San Jose, CA
(zone 9, min tem 20F)

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