The bottom line is this: you have to know how to talk to an amaryllis bulb, how to reason with it, how to even put a little fear into it.
Last fall, I cut the green leaves off the bulb and placed it atop a wooden shelf in the basement. It didn't bloom last year. I had planned to throw it onto the compost but Mom intervened and suggested I give it one more try. Last summer I added dry nitrogen fertilizer to the pot, hoping to prod it into a bloom this year.
In November, I went down into the basement and brought the pot up onto the porch. I talked to the bulb at some length. "This is it," I said, "one last chance to bloom."
"You had better think of blooming for Christmas," I said. But as the holidays arrived, the bulb continued to mock me. It was, in fact, dry and apparently lifeless. Good, I thought; this will make it easier to throw out.
This was the winter of all winters. Constant snow. Brutal cold. I heated the porch with a kerosene heater on the coldest night, hoping to keep the overwintering plants alive. The bulb sat in its pot, brown and lifeless as the world outside the window.
As winter ebbed, Mom kept watering the bulb each Friday. Eventuality a couple of leaves seem to sprout from the bulb. They took months to develop.Then, in late March, another shoot began to spring from the bulb. Could it be a bud?
Indeed it was and we've watched it develop since. The above picture shows how one of the two flowers look this morning (April 29). It is spectacular ... of fire engine red, two huge blooms, surely visible like warning flags from down the road.
Because I saw this coming, I have been taking regular photographs of the amaryllis. Here's how it developed, three weeks from the day the bud rose above the bulb to this wonderful flower of flame.
The bud popped up as a complete surprise. Can you see one of last year's cut leaves at the base of the bud shoot?
Mom and I could not imagine how quickly the bud rocketed skyward.
Just a week ago, the flower showed the first signs of color. A stripe or two of pink began to rise as the bud sheath split in two.
Now the two buds are first visible. Compare the difference in just one day!
Two days later and the sheath that holds the folded buds is retracting and the double flames stand ready to open.
This morning one bud has fully opened and this other is still partially unfolded.
This bud was fully opened when I took the last two shots at 8:30 am.
The picture at the top of this post was taken at 10:30 am, just two hours later.
So, the amaryllis gets a reprieve and even a place of honor on our back porch this summer. I'll keep it outdoors all summer long and only take it to the basement when cold weather returns in October.
Note: I've documented the past four blooms of this same bulb: April 29 2011, May 1 2010, May 15 2009, May 22 2008. They're all available here on this blog. Use the search tool at the top left and search for "amaryllis".