As a kid, when I saw the naked ladies pop up in the yard, it was always bittersweet. Their bold presence always made me smile, but I also knew it was almost time to go back to school. The ever-present surprise lilies, also known as spider lilies, naked ladies or naked lilies, were a sad reminder that summer was coming to an end. They are “naked” because the blooms arrive before the foliage and their stems are bare.
I live in upstate South Carolina and plant amaryllis bulbs in my yard. They are beautiful this year with so many blooms I can’t count them. I would like to separate and share them with friends, but do not know when I should do this. Can you help me? Does the foliage need to die down?
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are usually grown indoors as a winter blooming bulb, but they are commonly seen growing in gardens in temperate climates (zone 8 to 11) and they are even marginally cold hardy where I garden (zone 7). I have not tried growing Hippeastrum in the garden, but my mother’s neighbor had a flowerbed full of them.
While forced Hippeastrums bloom anytime from Christmas to late winter, outdoors the flowers appear in late spring and early summer. Over time the bulbs will naturalize and while they prefer to be root bound, you can dig and split them to generate more bulbs.
Dig the bulbs in late fall when the leaves begin to fade. Carefully lift the bulbs from the soil. Wash off the soil. You will notice that the mother bulb has bulblets or offsets coming off the base. Separate the offsets from the main bulb using a sharp knife.
Replant immediately with the neck and shoulders above the soil line. Plant in well-drained soil in filtered sunlight; too much sun may burn the leaves.
Store the bulbs you are planning to give to friends in a cool, dry location.
In Greek mythology Amaryllis was a lovesick shepherdess who stood at the door of her intended every night piercing her heart with a golden arrow. From her wounds sprung an exquisite flower.
Now that’s what I call the hard way to grow these gorgeous blooms. Unlike the Amaryllis in Greek mythology you can grow dramatic blooms this winter without a single puncture to the heart. Simply pot up a few bulbs this fall. With a little water and sunshine you’ll have breathtaking blooms in just over a month.
Here are a few varieties I’m trying this year. I feel certain that if Amaryllis had these to offer her flower-loving beau her fate would have been much rosier.
Clockwise from left: ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Double Dragon’, ‘Blossom Peacock’.
Clockwise from left: ‘Aphrodite’, ‘Red Pearl’, ‘Vera’, ‘Elvas’.
Do you have information available on what to do with amaryllis bulbs in the fall so they will bloom again?
You can get your amaryllis to re-bloom, but sometimes the flower isn’t as spectacular as it was the first time it bloomed. Hopefully, after the blooms faded, you cared for your amaryllis like a regular houseplant, watering and fertilizing it over the summer.
Now, around the first part of September, it’s time to stop fertilizing the plant and begin cutting back on the water. By October you should stop watering completely. This will force the bulb into dormancy. Place the potted bulb somewhere cool and dark – such as your basement.
Around January or February you can bring the bulb back out, remove old soil and roots and repot. Begin watering again and in about six weeks you should get a bloom.