The rounded, three-lobed growths that appear after bloom on an amaryllis stem aren’t bulbs, but rather seed capsules. Photo: alp, gardening-forums.com
Question: After its flowers dried up, one of my amaryllis bulbs produced three bulbs that look like small green tomatoes 1 inch (2.5 cm) and over in diameter. What are they, and do they need any special care?
Royal G Genereux
Answer: The “bulbs” you see are in fact seed capsules. Yes, your amaryllis (Hippeastrum cv) is pregnant! And this is normal. After all, the goal of any flower is to produce the seeds of the next generation. Most plants will form seeds if they are pollinated and their flowers are not removed and amaryllis belongs to that category.
Indoors, the amaryllis doesn’t produce seeds all that often, as it has less chance of being pollinated than when outdoors, where bees and other insects go from flower to flower, carrying pollen. However, maybe a bit of pollen got knocked off a anther (male part) and landed on the flower’s stigma (female part) or possibly you or a pet brushed against it. For whatever the reason, the deed is done. Inside the capsules, seeds are forming.
Now, what do you want to do about it?
If you let the seed mature, that may prevent your plant from blooming the following year, as producing seed requires an expenditure of energy. Many people therefore simply cut off the flower stalk after it blooms, thus stopping seed production in its tracks.
But maybe you want to experiment with growing your own amaryllis bulbs from seed? It’s easy enough to, but very slow. It can take up to 5 years to see a first flower.
Also, do take note that pretty much all amaryllis are hybrids and will not produce true to type from seed. That can be interesting, as several different flower colors, shapes and sizes may appear among the offspring. However, if you want more amaryllis bulbs just like the mother plant, you’ll have to wait until yours produces an offset (baby bulb) you can then divide, then pot it up on its own.
Alternatively, next time you have two different amaryllis in bloom at one, you could actually cross the two flowers and try your hand at hybridization.
It’s simple enough! When the plants are in bloom, just use an artist’s paint brush or a cotton bud to pick up dustlike pollen from one of the flower’s stamens and depose on the longer, sticky-ended stigma of a different flower. Repeat daily while the flower lasts, just to make sure the pollen “takes”.
You’ll know you’ve had success when plump three-sided seed pods begin to grow at the top of the plant.
Growing an Amaryllis from Seed
Here are the steps in growing an amaryllis from seed from the time a capsule has formed.
- Wait until the capsules turn yellow or brown and start to split open, a sign they are ripe.
- Crack the capsule open and harvest the seeds, which are usually dark brown, papery thin and somewhat wrinkled.
- Sow right away or within a few weeks, as amaryllis seed does not store well.
- Press some of the seeds (you’re not likely to have enough space to sow them all!) into a pot of moistened growing mix.
- Barely cover with mix and lightly spray with tepid water.
- Cover with a clear plastic bag or dome to keep the mix evenly moist.
- Place in a warm space in good light, but not full sun. A heating pad can be helpful.
- Germination should take 4 to 8 weeks, producing young plants that look much like grass at first.
- After the first leaves appear, remove the transparent covering and move the seedlings to a sunny spot.
- Water as needed when the soil begins to dry out.
- Begin light fertilizing with a soluble plant food about once a month from late winter through late summer.
- Allow the plants to follow their normal growth cycle, offering regularly watering and warmth from spring to the end of summer, but no watering and cooler (50 to 60 °F/10 to 15 °C) when the plants are dormant, that is from mid-fall until mid-winter or until you see new leaves, a sign dormancy has ended. You can remove dried leaves during dormancy.
- As the plants grow, move them into individual small pots.
- Repot each time they threaten to outgrow their pot.
- It can take from 3 to 5 years before young plants first flower.
Try growing amaryllis from seed and you’ll see! It can be quite enjoyable!