His trip was financed by several friends in return for plant specimens he discovered in each of the areas he visited. In all he sent back or took home over 17,000 of them. When he returned to Germany he became the Zoology professor at the University of Leipzig for the remainder of his life.
One of the plants he discovered on a hillside in Chile was the amaryllis hippeastrum, one of the most beautiful plants in the world. I have well over a dozen now, in a bed begun after a piano student gave me one for Christmas one year. The deep solid red is probably the most common, but I have that and everything from pale pink and bright apricot, to stripes of white on red, pink, and apricot; pink throats on a pristine white, or white throats on deep orange or red as well. They are gorgeous, but sometimes they don’t bloom, and that leaves me disappointed, usually with half the bulbs every year. So I decided to find out what keeps amaryllises from blooming to see if I could remedy the problem. Here is what I discovered and what I extrapolated.
Amaryllises will not bloom in full shade. They may not need full sun, especially in this sub-tropical environment, but they need enough light to draw that big thick stem up out of the bulb and through the soil and mulch.
The New Testament tells us we need the Light, too. John says that as long as we walk in the light, we won’t stumble (1 John 2:9-11). It variously calls us sons of light and children of light; it says we are “of the day not the night.” And because we have that Light and live in it, we then become “the light of the world.” Certainly a Christian who does not live in the light will never bloom.
Amaryllises need sufficient nutrients. Just as a larger animal needs more food, this large flower needs good soil, and ample food and water. Many of my amaryllis bulbs were as big as softballs when they came out of the package, and many of the blooms are broader across than some of Keith’s garden cantaloupes. Especially in this poor sandy soil, we must be sure to supply the proper nutrition if we want anything to come out of it.
We need nutrition too. Peter tells us to “long for the pure spiritual milk that by it we may grow up into salvation” 1 Pet 2:2. How can we do that if we neglect all the feeding opportunities our shepherds have offered us? How can we do it when we shun the healthy spiritual food and feast on the junk in this life? I have seen many brothers and sisters go hog wild with the organic, all-natural, non-preservative craze when taking care of their physical bodies, yet starve their spirits with skimpy servings and junk food. No wonder their blooms are so scarce and puny.
This might be surprising, but not allowing them to rest will also keep amaryllises from blooming. You can force blooms at certain times of the year, but then you must prune both the stem and leaves and water them prodigiously until they go dormant. Then leave them alone!
God did not rest on the seventh day because He was tired. He rested because He was finished, but in that rest he also ordained a day of rest for His people. Do you understand what that means? In that ancient time, the common people lived hand to mouth and they worked sunup till sundown seven days a week just to survive. But not God’s people. As long as they observed their commanded Sabbath, He made sure they had plenty. God knows what you need and sometimes you need to rest. It may no longer be a religious observance, but it is certainly a matter of health. And rest doesn’t mean going on a vacation that leaves you more worn out than rested. It means a day with no schedule, no stressful situations, nothing hanging over your head that “just has to be done.” Spend some time with your family—just one full day a week, any day—rest your body and your mind, and talk of the blessings God has given you all, especially the time you have to be together because He has taken such good care of you.
And this last one really surprised me. If you take your amaryllis bulbs out of the ground and store them in the refrigerator, you should not store them with apples. Apples will make an amaryllis bulb sterile, or so I have been told. Apples? Apples are good things, right? But even things that look good can make a plant sterile and unproductive it turns out.
Haven’t you seen the same thing happen to Christians? They become so involved in things of this world, good things, that there is no time left for producing the fruit God wants from us. Or they hang around with people who are not their spiritual brothers and sisters to the point that what matters most to those people becomes what matters most to them. Other people, people who do not understand that we are to encourage one another and build one another up spiritually, who care nothing for the spiritual warfare we are involved in, who would, in fact, think you are nuts to even talk about such a thing, can hinder your productivity for the Lord.
So take a look at your amaryllises today if you have them. Think about the things that affect those gorgeous blooms. See if any of them are affecting you too.
And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful, Titus 3:14.