Four myths about amaryllis
They like to be pot-bound.
Amaryllis bulbs will do better in big pots, where their roots have room to spread.
Amaryllis shouldn't be placed in direct sunlight when flowering.
In reality, full sun is fine until April, when the weather begins to heat up. But never put blooms up against a south-facing window, even in the winter, because it can get too hot and scorch them.
Stalks must be chopped off at the base after flowering.
Although not as attractive, it's actually better to leave the stalks on (and simply remove the seed heads at the top) because they send nourishment down to the bulbs.
Amaryllis won't rebloom unless you put them in the dark for a couple of months after flowering.
Light is immaterial. All they really need is a cool room during their dormant phase in the fall.
Amaryllis are easy to grow, but for a change (and a challenge), try cultivating the diva of the amaryllis family—its noble cousin, the clivia, which is expensive and often refuses to bloom.
Clivia makes a striking houseplant, often growing 90 centimetres tall, with dark green leaves arranged in a tiered pattern from the base. The only commonly available variety is Clivia miniata (buy clivias ready-potted). It's capable—if you're lucky—of sending forth a sturdy flower stalk twice a year, topped by a brilliant cluster of blossoms in tangerine, orange and yellow.
To coax a clivia into bloom, replant it in a clay-not plastic-pot that's at least 30 centimetres in diameter; ordinary container mix or potting soil works fine. The plant doesn't mind low light, but a cool spot is essential. A north-facing window, where the temperature dips to between 7 and 13°C at night in winter, is ideal. Water regularly, but don't let soil get soggy.
Starting in November, fertilize once every three to four weeks with a water-soluble product such as 20-20-20 mixed at regular strength. When flattened flower heads (which are sandwiched between the leaves) appear, stop fertilizing.
The flower stalk takes several weeks to develop. Once mature, its blooms last for several glorious weeks. After flowering, cut the seed head off if you want the plant to bloom again (otherwise fruit will form). The second round of blooming may occur in July or August, but a lot depends on the nighttime temperatures during summer. Put the pot outside in the warm months, if you can, in a semi-shaded location—and keep your fingers crossed.
Inset photo: H. ‘Red Lion', courtesy of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Centre