Gift-boxed bulbs are chilled and otherwise specially prepped to bloom in time for the festive season. But I especially appreciate the blooms after the holidays, so I store the bulbs away in a cool, dry place for up to three weeks before potting them. (Flowering is delayed by keeping the bulbs out of the warmth and light-but it is not an exact science!) By waiting to plant, the bulbs will begin to stir and come into flower during the dour winter months, and I can admire my amaryllis blooms from the New Year until at least Valentine's Day and beyond. North of the Mason-Dixon line, few things make wintertime life more bearable than a spectacular indoor floral display. Gardeners in the South, however, can grow them outdoors, as I did in my Austin, Texas, garden. Their startling flowers looked ravishing next to sturdy agaves and wisps of Mexican hair grass (Stipa tenuissima).
Among the dozen or so that I grew last year, the stars were 'Chico', the Cybister sine qua non. The flower stems are about 12 inches tall, topped by an umbel of three to four flowers; the lower petals are lime green, while the topmost are oxblood red. 'Grandeur' blooms are perfectly formed and have distinct dark red venation against green.
Among the pure white-flowered sorts is 'Ludwig Dazzler', with blooms up to 9 inches across! The edge of each petal is charmingly ruffled, and the flower stems are often 30 inches tall. At the opposite end of the size spectrum is 'Rainbow', a dainty little double only 8 inches tall, with white flowers picotee-edged in pink. It actually looks rather like a yummy bite of lobster claw! Finally, there is 'Rilona', with 9-inch-wide terra-cotta-colored flowers atop sturdy stems that are almost 3 feet tall.
Amaryllis flower best if pot-bound, and the bulb should have its shoulders above soil level. I most often see them in the nondescript white plastic pots provided in the gift-box set, but that's like asking Ginger Rogers to dance in Converse high-tops. I prefer to grow amaryllis in the tall, tapering pottery flower pots known as Long Toms. The effect is like a ballerina getting up on her points-beyond graceful, bordering on lyrical. And isn't that exactly the effect we are looking for when we bring our gardens indoors?