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Friday, July 30, 2010

Blooming Amaryllis in the Tropical.

Do you have a pot of Amaryllis plant that never seemed to flower for years?
Have you seen any sitting by the corner of your garden, forgotten for ages and you really can't remember how the flower looked like?
Wondered how the bloomed ever looked like when somehow hands over the bulb giving up on them, and taking them thinking that one day - just one day - luck will be at your side and you might just perhaps enjoy the bloom one day?

Well, this is my side of the story with the Amaryllis flower.
I have been keeping them for years and never once saw any bloomed. All the more some of my gardener friends passed me their bulbs giving up hope in seeing their blooms too.
The closest bulb blooms that I ever got to enjoy are those rainlilies but that's it.

And so, the experiment goes - I had tried few different methods:
The first was the trimming off all the leaves just above the crown.
This worked exclusively for the Rainlilies but was not successful for the rest of the other types.

Then the 2nd experiment was giving them a heavy dose of organic fertilisers.
Still nothing happened except for their beautiful boring leaves, apparently there were little bulbs sprouting from the main bulb.
(I want flowers not offsprings!!!)

And so I went with the 3rd. uprooting all of them, turning over the soil and replanting them - removing all the little offspring and adding more soil and fertiliser. I thought just probably when they go through the process of uproot and replanting - the shock might just cause them to bloom.
Few months passed and nothing happen.

By luck, I chanced to come across a gardener who put in details about forcing the Amaryllis bulb.
Imagine the joy that I had in getting them to bloom!

I must thank Ha Xuan from Veitnam (Tuysonvien - Where I Garden)
for the force blooming details.
You can click the link (name above) for more details for this information.

If you have a pot of Amaryllis bulb in the tropical region and they never seemed to flower for ages, you can force bloom them with this simple process:

1) Before selecting the bulbs for the processing, inspect that they have at least 6 healthy leaves and must not have bloomed for the last 10 months.

2) The whole process may take around 4 months, if you would like to have these blooms appear during a festive season like Christmas or Weddings - you can start prepare them 4 months ahead to get these blooms appear.

3) Dig out the bulb from the soil or pot. Make sure you don't damage the roots in the process. (note: its better to plant it in a pot as when required all you have to do is overturn the pot and knock out the soil carefully, this way - you can shake off the soil with minimum or no damage to the bulb and roots)

4) Cut off all the foliage leaving a "neck" of about 3cm above the bulb.
(Again alternatively, you may also choose to leave the whole plant from the soil and let the foliage to dry up naturally - that way all the nutrients will be stored back to the bulb but this may take another few weeks and sometimes months for them to dry up)

5) Wash off all the dirt from the bulb and hang it upside down, in the shade to dry for 1 week.
(picture below)

The ones above are Blood Lily - not successful with this process
(well, I have to try it and see if it works right?)

6) After 1 week, wrap all the bulb in newspaper and place it in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for 8 weeks. Remember to mark the newspaper with the date you wrap the bulb so you remember. Also, don't store any fruit in the fridge during this time lest the bulb can be damaged by the gas from the ripening fruit.
Do check the bulbs time to time, (like once a week) sometimes the newspaper may turn soggy and may rot the bulb. You may have to transfer them to a new set of wrapping. I had done this couple of times. (And please make sure you wrap with with several pieces of paper - one big piece won't do)

7) Finally take out the bulbs after 8 weeks, cut off all the dried roots but leave out the fresh ones.
(I had placed them for 3 months due to lack of time to tend on them)
You may have to start collecting all the little bottles to hold the bulb (during the 8 week period)
8) Place the bulb just rightly above the rim of the bottle but not let the water to soak on the base of the bulb. you may need to be cautious on this as totally submerging the bulb in water may cause bulb rot and all your effort is lost. So, do check on the level of the water after an hour later as strangely as it might appear to be - the level change time to time.

9) You can leave the roots on water from 1 - 3 days. Better keep it in a day at most.
These are in water for 3 days. (this was my problem with time management)
10) Once this is done - plant them in the pots, you need to prepare the soil first before planting.
Make sure that the soil is moist but not wet & soggy. Plant the bulb 1/3 buried on the soil but 2/3 exposed. Do not water for another 2-3 days but lightly keep the soil moist and place the pot in a shaded area.
11) Start watering (again sparingly) when you see new sprouts of leaflet appearing from the centre of the bulb. Also you will notice that the bulb may just shoot out the flowerscape from the side of the bulb. (you can notice it in the pic. below)
12) Once this progress takes place, transfer the pot from the shady area to a brighter location.
This process may take within another month.

These are my bloodlily bulbs - they didn't bloom in this process.
Well, it was another trial experiment.
These are too young and small bulbs (plantlets and off shoots from the main bulbs)
I had kept them here until they grow bigger for the process.
(notice most of them have only one leaf or two - these are not successful for force blooming)
Notice the flowerscape without their leaves?
I'm so excited everyday in seeing their progress.

Can you see the leafscape in the centre and the flowerscape coming out from the sides?
These pictures taken after few weeks, 3 flowerscapes appeared from the whole process, others are still dormant.

Finally this one bloomed yesterday. I took these picture using the handphone camera, by the time I reach home - I was getting dark.
Finally after all these years - I got the chance to enjoy the bloom. Never dream this was possible.
I guess this "force blooming" is necessary for those who are having it in the tropical climate for they do not go through the natural process of the four season here.
I got another 2 more flowerscape to bloom and not very sure how they are going to look like.
(Just to inform you - I have collected a lot of these bulb from many friends who had given up on them, I'm hoping that all of these bulb are different from each other)


Hà Xuân said...

Wow... it also works for you, too, huh James? Wonderful. Thank you very much for sharing the excited news.

p3chandan said...

This is soo amazing and worth the hard work and of cos the waiting! Congrats James. Thank you for sharing...

Autumn Belle said...

I think this is a brilliant idea! I am trying to grow a daylily and it has not bloomed since all the first round of flowers dried up. That was more than 7 months ago. One of these days, I'll need to try this method.

Floridagirl said...

Congratulations! Isn't it the most exciting thing to see the first amaryllis buds pop up from that bulb and then to see the bloom? We grow them in the ground here, where they bloom effortlessly every spring for us. My neighbor has some in containers by her lanai door, and they bloom at the same time as the planted ones every year. I've heard of people forcing them to have blooms at other times, but that is way too much work for me.

Ami said...

James: That is very exciting news and wonderful experiment! I don't have any amaryllis bulbs, but one friend gave me some seeds, and I heard it will take about three years for amaryllies to bloom if started from seeds! I guess I will learn to be a patient gardener this time! lol

Steve Asbell said...

This is one of your best posts! I'll have to bookmark this one.

Chloe m said...

You have an amazing amount of patience!
I like how you described each step and showed pictures. This post is very informative!



Karen said...

What an excellent, detailed post! I am going to have to give this a try, since I haven't had much luck with amaryllis bulbs either. Thank you!

James David said...

Ha Xuan - Thanks for the information, I would have done it without your help.

Chandran - The moment it bloomed - I had forgotten all the "hardwork" Its all worth it the moment you see the bloom.

Belle - Really looking forward for your experiment and your success story. Do share it once you have tried.

Aaron - You really made me laugh. See perhaps show these pictures and the method to your mum and perhaps do an extra chores and favours to her - she might just help you in keeping them in your fridge?

Floridagirl - I guess its no problem for them as the winter helps them to sleep and that spring back to life in spring. Here is 24/7 all year summer. And so the trouble begins when there is no winter nor spring.

Ami - Do plant the seeds now and you can enjoy them bloom sooner. Or you would want to opt to the bulb which is much faster.

Rainforest Gardener - Thanks for the compliment.

Rosey - 4 months is not very long to be considered as patience. I've known some gardeners wait for ages to see their orchid bloom planted from seed!

Karen - I'm sure you can get this done. Do share your success story once they bloom.

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments.

Floridagirl said...


FYI: Amaryllis is a tropical bulb that just happens to also survive in the subtropics. They are actually native to South American tropics where there is no winter. Mine keep their green leaves all year. Amaryllis will be killed outdoors by a true winter. (I complain about our last 2 winters a lot, but we don't really have a winter here. It's all relative, you know what I mean?) The "seasons" the amaryllis recognizes are wet and dry. It does indeed bloom in our dry season in Florida. The bloom is short-lived, just a few weeks out of the entire year. It must have well-drained soil. When propagated, the new bulb may take several years to bloom. They must attain some size before blooming. If growing in a container, I imagine, you would have to induce a dry season on it, or just leave it out in the elements like my neighbors do if you live where there is a dry season and a wet season.

Stephanie said...

Cool James, you have done it! Kudos!!

James David said...

Floridagirl - Thank you so much for the information. I really thought this one comes from the temperate regions coz they seemed to bloom during spring times.
Never knew that dry season could cause them to bloom.

Stephanie - Thank you for the compliment. Hope I too may share your joy when you manage to process these in your garden.

Jacqueline said...

Wow, great success! So much effort and such great patience you have, James! Not for me, I think (sigh!), I prefer a lazier way! ;-)
I thought this method was only for the temperate regions with 4 seasons, never knew that it can be applied here. Anyway, we've experimented reducing water previously and they do bloom better in drier soils but somehow the regime gets messed up during the rainy weather. Probably need to relocate our pots when weather gets too wet.
Happy gardening and experimenting!

J.C. said...

Congratulations, James. Your experiment on force blooming worked well with these Amaryllis.

I noticed Amaryllis are always blooming on my grandpa's cemetery when we visit it during Cheng Beng (usually early April). I am not sure if it's becoz of the rain & heat that caused it.

I am keen to try out this method of yours to get my Amaryllis to go into blooming stage for Chinese New Year. It would just right to start now.

Alvin said...

Hello James,

Thanks for the great post! I have always wanted to get Amaryllis bulbs to bloom but wasted my efforts because I didn't do it the right way. Will try this method with another batch of bulbs this time around. :D

Unknown said...

I've been looking for the tips to blooming amaryllis @ website. and finally got you! thank so much for the written :)
have you ever plant Tulip too at your garden? I think it may have the same treatment could be like amaryllis :D
will hear another good tips again from you James! :D


James David said...

You are most welcome.
I was never able to get tulips in my part of the country.
I guess they are too expensive and may not able to survive in my tropical area.
I have written many tips on plant care.
Do find them at your right-side where the label of the plants.
Enjoy gardening.

Unknown said...

I think the reality is that both temperature and humidity are important for the dormant period and subsequent flowering of the amaryllis. In fact, temperature and relative humidity are intimately linked, as the amount of water than air can "hold" varies with temperature. Which is why we generally use relative humidity (the % saturation at a given temp) rather than absolute humidity (grams of water per cubic meter of air)

The plants grow and flower naturally in Florida and in South Africa. Both these locations are actually sub-tropical (lying above and below their respective tropics). And both temperature and humidity are significantly lower during their respective winter months.

Near to the equator, where temperatures and humidity remain high all year, the plants just continue to grow leaves and never die back.

But what is interesting is that I have seen them growing and flowering naturally in the highlands of Sumatra, which is tropical and indeed very close to the equator. But not in nearby Medan, which is at sea level. Now the highlands are 5-10 degrees C colder than Medan. There is no significant seasonality to the temperature in Medan or the highlands. There are however changes in humidity (rainy season and dry season). But here's the thing. in Medan, it is actually still quite humid in the dry season. Not as humid as the wet season, but more humid than say Florida or South Africa in the winter. However, in the Sumatran Highlands, at altitude and hence much cooler, the absolute humidity is much lower in the dry season than in Medan.

Given these observations, I would suggest that the amaryllis will only grow and flower properly in the tropics if at altitude (providing a low enough humidity during the dry season). Or in sub-tropical regions for the same reason. It is worth noting here that refrigerators are not just cold, they are also dry.

An interesting experiment would be to put some bulbs in a refrigerator, and others in a dry box (eg a sealed plastic box containing a dehumidifying agent) at ambient temperature, and compare the results!

Unknown said...

I have many amaryllis plants that keep multiplying but have not bloomed for years. I bought the bulbs in berastagi (sumatra highlands) and planted them in Jakarta, where they grow but only very rarely flower. On the few occassions they flower, we never knew what the reason was. I've read about putting bulbs in the fridge but your article is so detailed and your experience has encouraged me to try, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting, it really works!! just factor in a 3 month delay before blooming time.
Kelvin, Tobago, WI

Brede said...

Thank you so much for sharing this informative post! I was close to giving up on my pot of amaryllis thinking they were just not suited to Malaysian weather. They keep growing new bulbs and sprouting leaves but not a single flower in sight. Now there is hope I might just see a flower bloom. (Brede, Malaysia)

James David said...

Thanks Brede for your heartfelt comment.
I truly understand what you went through and very glad that you didn't give up.
Amaryllis a bit of a space hoarder and they multiply once flowered.
If you have space for it, go ahead and grow more. Best of luck.

Kat from Suriname said...

Thanks for sharing. I will definitely give your method a try. I got a bulb from my cousin who keeps her potted plant under the shade of her mango tree here in Suriname, South America. It blooms beautifully every year (for the past 3 years). She had to wait for nearly 9 years though. I'm not very patient, thus, I do not want to wait that long.

James David said...

Welcome Kat. Love to hear from you. All the best.

Unknown said...

My lilies have not bloomed for 10 years but they have wonderful fresh green leaves. Finally i came across this post. I am definitely trying out your method and i hope i get my lilies to bloom again.

James David said...

It definitely would - give a try, you will never regret it.

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Tropical Garden, Batu Caves, Malaysia
My Malaysian Tropical Garden mainly focused on unique and colorful plants ranging from rare to common plants all around the tropical belt across the world. Ideal for inspiration for challenging areas in the garden space - indoor gardening, balcony gardening and small green spaces especially for ariods, bromeliads, begonias, edibles, cascading & vertical garden plants, succulents & cacti, orchids, together with both shade and sun loving plants.

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