Vick’s Magazine. September, 1881.
AMARYLLIS
Celeste

There are many theories as to the treatment of these grand plants, and, in practice, we have learned that they may thrive in almost as many ways as there are theories. Where there is a garden at hand containing a sunny bed with a light, rich soil, or one that can be made so, then, as soon as there is no danger of frost, set the Amaryllis out, shaking the earth of the pot entirely away. Make a hole large enough to spread the roots freely, then fill up, covering about half of the bulb. Let them stay in the bed as late as possible, not minding even a slight frost, so that the days are warm. It would, however, be better to protect them at night by a frame covered with muslin, for, though they will bear a slight freeze, and blossom afterward, it is best not to chill them. In some localities they could stay out until the last of September, or even later, if the weather continued warm. When the frost becomes severe, take them up carefully with a pronged spade, or dig round them, and then carefully raise them. When repotting Amaryllis, use very rich earth, such as that from under a manure pile, or well-decomposed woods-earth, well-rotted manure (chicken is best), and fine sand (coarse will sink to the bottom of the pot). Use one-third each of garden soil, woods-earth, and well-rotted manure, unless the earth from under a manure-pile is used, when take half of that and half woods-earth. Put in as much sand as will cause the water to sink rapidly through it. Mix and try until there is enough. Previous to putting in the sand, add enough charcoal dust to give a dark tinge to the earth, about one-sixth. It is apt to make the earth pack harder, so use sand last. For drainage, use bits of charcoal, oyster-shells, or broken pots. Charcoal helps to keep the earth sweet, and also feeds the plants. Put the drainage in to one and a half inches in depth, at least, when a large pot is used, eight or ten inches high. Place a fiat piece on the drainage-hole, and pack the drainage well. Then cover with earth, and shake to settle it well among the bits. Place over this some well-rotted manure, in a layer half an inch thick. Form the earth over this into a little bell, or cone, placing on the top about a tablespoonful of sand. Spread out the roots, and set the base of the bulb directly on the sand, arranging the roots evenly round the cone. Fix the bulb at a sufficient height, in the pot, to allow the bulb to be half covered when the earth is settled an inch below the rim of the pot. Handle the roots tenderly, so as not to break or bruise them. Fill in the earth and tap the pot, so as to settle it firmly about the roots and bulb. Water freely once, and then not for several days after, setting the pot out in the sun for that time. After this time is out, they may be removed to the house and placed in a sunny window, or be set in the cellar, if free from frost, till the middle of December, when they can be watered well and put into a warm, sunny window. After this, unless the air is very dry, water well about twice a week, till the bud is out of the bulb, then very freely if there is plenty of heat and sun. They require careful watering till the bud is out of the bulb, because, if made too wet and the earth becomes chilled by a change of weather, the bud either remains dormant several weeks or gradually decays. In such cases, the use of hot water will often start the bud into growth. It is best put into the saucer, or carefully round the edge of the pot. The Amaryllis should be watered very freely as the flower-stem rises and the leaves are forming. After the flowers have gone and the leaves are well-matured, twice a week will be often enough to water them.

If intending to keep them in the pots, repot them immediately after the bloom is over, in the way before described, and encourage leaf-growth as much as possible.

Washing the under part of the leaf once a week, with a sponge, adds to the health of the plant, and removes a minute insect that can be seen only with the aid of the microscope, yet which will, in time, destroy most of the leaves, first turning them to a brick-red on the under side.

When no more young leaves appear, let the plants go into comparative rest, watering about twice a week. If the leaves show signs of decay, set them under cover, as hard rains injure them while dormant. If they retain a vigorous appearance, let them remain green as long as they will.

There are evergreen varieties which retain their color all the season, starting new growth about four times a year, and generally bloom in the summer, fall, or early winter. Their native places are behind rocks, in moist places. Many of them grow in the West Indies.

Charcoal placed on top of the earth and around the bulb increases the vigor. When manure is not convenient to use, guano may be mixed in the earth, using about a tablespoonful to each large pot. Some amateurs think anthracite coal made fine has a good effect put on top of the earth and around the bulb. The sulphur of the coal may affect them favorably. Others use fine pebbles, thinking to keep dampness from the bulb.

In watering, a German florist advised that they be watered altogether from the saucer, as he thinks if the water should enter between the scales it would produce decay. As they not unfrequently decay when the ground is kept very wet, this may be one cause.

There are many theories as to cultivating, such as cutting off the roots when repotting, to produce early bloom in seedlings, a theory directly contrary to most directions, but we are assured by a florist who has produced very early flowers in some fine seedlings of his own raising, that by so doing he advanced them a year; drying oft the bulb for several months is recommended by most florists, one who raises fine, large bulbs saying he did not feel concerned if his bulbs remained dry eight months. It must be remembered in this case, however, that they were kept in the moist atmosphere of a greenhouse.

We consider two conditions absolutely necessary for fine bloom—either the richest earth in large pots, or the same with continual nourishment in small pots. Where it is convenient to have them, we prefer large pots, as there is a greater likelihood of good bloom, always.

When the bulbs are small, let them first push their roots to the outside of the earth before repotting, and then without disturbing the roots, except when entwined about the drainage, which should all be removed. In changing, use one size larger at a time, to promote compact growth and early bloom. All offsets cultivated in pots should be treated in this way, if rapid growth is desired; but where garden room is to be had, both these and larger bulbs increase in size much faster in the open ground. We have known ladies to take the bulbs directly from the ground, repot them, and then cut off the leaves. They then set them to rest for the winter, and until warm enough to again transplant to the open ground. Some Amaryllis, the A. Johnsoni, when treated in this way, have had three stems of bloom in succession.

We have tried keeping A. Johnsoni as Gladiolus are kept, that is, with the earth shaken off, and put into a basket or a paper bag. These bloomed nearly as well as those kept in the pot.

Seedlings are easily raised, and can be made to bloom earlier by the treatment described before. All seedlings and offsets should be kept growing constantly till the bulb is in blooming condition.

A south exposure is best for most blooming plants, and the Amaryllis is no exception; but, if they are kept in vigorous growth and have the required heat, they will do very well with a western exposure. None of the Hippeastrum, usually called Amaryllis, from the general name, like to be exposed to a strong draft, even out of doors. The orange-colored varieties do rather better in summer in partial shade. These need, also, very careful watering, and an extra quantity of drainage, or they are apt to rot off.

The fall, summer, or early-winter blooming varieties can be kept growing constantly. When desiring to bloom them in the house, however, they should be repotted in rich, sandy earth, in the spring; be watered well once, then sparingly for a week or two; then the pot should be turned on one side and the leaves be entirely dried off. When cool weather comes, take them in, water, and set where they will be exposed to the sun and have plenty of heat.

There are many fine standard varieties of both spring and fall-blooming varieties, and innumerable hybrid seedlings, most of which are finer than the original types.

It is not generally known that these bulbs, Hippeastrum, retain their vigor for many years. We knew of one which was twenty years old and still bloomed. After that time the mixing of labels by a busy little hand, occasioned confusion among the A. Johnsonis, and the veteran was never recognized afterwards, and so due honor to meritorious old age could not be given.—CELESTE.