For most of us, Southwest Florida is the place of perpetual summers with just a tad of spring. Flamboyant flowering shrubs are the landscape’s tropical signature.
But come spring, around late February through mid-March, the amaryllis, often referred to as Florida’s tulips, burst forth from the earth with its radiant colors announcing that spring has arrived in Southwest Florida!
If you are missing the spring flowers of the North, we have many flowering substitutes, but one in particular that is showing right now are that amaryllis.
Most popular are the deep reds but there are other color varieties such as pinks, snow whites, orange, peach and even stripes. Some come in single clusters of small to large trumpet-like flowers; others bloom with large double trumpet-like petals.
Purchase your bulbs around the time you purchase your poinsettias and add this stunning harbinger of spring to your landscape. You can plant them immediately in the ground and expect it to flower the coming spring. Amaryllis are considered “Florida Friendly” as once established, they are carefree and drought tolerant.
Best time to plant amaryllis bulbs is between September and January in soil enriched with compost. They prefer light shade for ultimate flowering and the leaves will burn if there is too much sun. Planting them in clumps of five to ten, in the same color, makes a statement in your landscape. Plant the bulb so that just the neck of the bulb is showing above the soil and water till established.
After several years, bulbs become crowded and its best to thin the amaryllis bulbs out as this will refresh the bed and encourage additional growth and blooms. Once the flower is spent, remove the stalks to keep the plant from forming a seed pod, otherwise you will likely have fewer flowers next year. But make sure to keep the green foliage as food for the next growing season. In the late summer or fall, the foliage will die back and in the late winter or early spring, flower buds will emerge for another show.
Caution: Amaryllis are known to be toxic to dogs and cats, so practice due diligence in this respect. Keep it away from digging dogs.
If you are homesick for tulips, try amaryllis in tropical Florida. You can order amaryllis through the mail as they may have better color selection. Often, your garden center will have a limited supply around November or December.
Amaryllis is native to South Africa. As rainfall is plentiful to Southwest Florida in the summer, this tropical bulb will flourish care-free and its flowers are worth the wait in the spring.
The Calusa Garden Club is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and membership is open to those interested in horticulture, floral design, and the environment. For more information, visit calusa.org or the Club’s Facebook Page at Calusa Garden Club.