Nothing beats an amaryllis for speed and pow factor. If you’ve never grown these bulbs, this is a good year to try one, since we’re all struck in limbo and lockdown at home. If you have kids, they’ll like seeing the ugly brown ball sprout a tall green stalk and then a huge flower.
Amaryllis are in the lily family and they grow from fat bulbs that are easy to store and ship and force into bloom during winter – that’s why long ago they became a holiday favorite for florists and nurseries. The most commonly sold amaryllis are red, but there are also white, pink, and salmon varieties and personally I like those better.
It’s late in December now, so you might find bulbs on sale. Buy one (or more) then take it home and give it just a little water and a little light. Most amaryllis will bloom in twelve weeks, so you won’t have blooms by Christmas if you start in December. But I’ve always thought that amaryllis are better in January anyway. It’s dull and cold in January and we need something bold and bright.
Over the years I’ve grown different varieties, mostly ordered from Colorblends. If you’re reading this post in fall, you have time to get started with any variety you like. I recommend a big white like ‘Marilyn’ or a luscious rose color like ‘Lagoon.’ For big reds you can’t beat ‘Red Lion.’ ‘Rapido’ is the fastest amaryllis I’ve ever grown; it’s a good red but smaller than most. I’ve seem ‘Rapido’ flower only four weeks after planting, which is amazingly fast. My all time favorite is ‘Moscow,’ a huge white amaryllis with petals that sparkle. I’m not kidding, or speaking metaphorically – I mean the petals actually sparkle. Try it and see!
Here in Northern California you can plant amaryllis outdoors after they bloom and they might take root and bloom for many years, although they’ll revert to their normal pattern of flowering spring instead of winter. Whatever the season, amaryllis are beautiful and well worth growing.