University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

As you might guess, Naked Ladies actually refers to a flower.  It is very closely related to what we know as the Amaryllis—bulbs most commonly bought or given over the holidays as they make an easy-to-grow flowering indoor plant. 

As choices in plant stores and catalogs expand, you may find either bulb.  The true Amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna) may also be called Belladona Lily in addition to Naked Ladies.  The latter name comes from the fact the stalk appears with blooms before any leaves.  In other words, it is “naked.” The scientific term for such blooms before leaves is “hysteranthy.”

What we usually know as the Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) usually blooms with leaves, and has been bred to have large flowers in many selections, and in many colors. One species of this (puniceum) is sometimes called the Barbados Lily, indicating its origin.  While the true amaryllis is native to South Africa, this one we call "amaryllis" is native to South America. 

Often these bulbs are found now in “kits”, either with ingredients or already planted.  All you need do is assemble them according to directions, and just add water.  As with any bulb, don’t keep them too wet or they will rot.

If you have just a bulb, pot it in a container just slightly larger.  Or you may want to put three in an even larger container.  Don't use too large a container as amaryllis like to be slightly crowded. Use a standard houseplant potting medium-- one containing a large amount of peat moss and no soil.

Next put the pot in a cool (50 to 65 degree), dark location.  This should stimulate the bulb to produce roots, before the shoots.  Check on it weekly to make sure it hasn’t dried out.  When you see a shoot two or three inches high, you then can move it into the light.

Since bulbs are self-contained packages, containing much food for the season, they don’t need much fertilizer.  You may fertilize lightly—about half strength of your normal houseplant fertilizer.  You can fertilize in this amount every couple weeks, especially while the plant is in bloom.  It often takes about six to eight weeks to bloom from the time you see the shoots emerge from the bulb.

After bloom, keep up with the water and fertilizer, just as you would your other houseplants.  In summer, after frosts (these bulbs and leaves are tropical, and so quite tender), you can move the pots outdoors into part sun or shade.  Placing them in full sun may cause leaves to burn and turn brown.
Be sure and move the pots back indoors before the first fall frost.  Stop fertilizing and water less.  Leaves should start dying back, at which point you can cut them off.  Place the pots in a dark place again, and leave them alone!  They are dormant and need a rest for a few weeks.  Check weekly, and later in the fall when you see a new shoot emerging, start watering and treating as when you first got them. 

With proper care, the true amaryllis and the one we call amaryllis, are easy to grow.  They often last and rebloom for many years, making them a good value and a good investment.

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