Producing attractive lily-like trumpet shaped flowers on elegantly long stems even the most experienced of gardeners will enjoy growing the attractive amaryllis. Despite the plant’s exotic appearance it is one of the easiest bulbs to cultivate. This means that anyone can enjoy some success by growing an amaryllis.
Whether you are new to caring for houseplants or an experienced gardener here is everything you need to know about caring for the amaryllis.
Elegant and attractive, amaryllis is one of the most popular houseplants. Pleasingly easy to grow, they are a great way to bring winter color to your home.
How to Choose a Bulb
You will commonly see boxed amaryllis kits for sale. These, typically, contain a bulb, a container and some soil. The flowers are usually available in shades of red, pink and white.
If you extend your search to a garden or DIY store, you will find larger, bare amaryllis bulbs for sale. This gives you more variety of choice. Bare bulbs come in a range of colors from pale whites to deep reds. You may also be able to find some really eye-catching striped varieties.
Choosing a bare bulb also allows you to easily see how healthy the bulb is. A healthy bulb will feel heavy and firm. It should also have a set of long, fleshy roots. Avoid soft or mouldy bulbs.
Different Varieties of Amaryllis
Amaryllis bulbs are classified by size.
Large flowering amaryllis bulbs are the most commonly sold variety. These produce the typical large trumpet shaped flower with a single layer of petals. Common large bulb types include Picotee, a white flowering plant whose petals are marked by a red band and Apple Blossom. This is a white flowering bulb with a soft pink blush.
Similarly, Picotee produces large, white flowers. These are edged with a slender red band. Adding contrast to the pale flowers, the throat of Picotee is a bright lime green color. For something a little different try Ruby Star. This cultivar produces star shaped burgundy flowers with white and lime green throats.
The blooms of the double flowering amaryllis produce several layers of petals. This helps to create a fuller appearance. The deep red flowers of Ruby Peacock are marked with narrow white stripes that reach all the way to the center of the petal.
Another attractive variety is Snow Drift. This produces snow like white flowers. Similarly Nymph produces white blooms that are marked with the hint of salmon.
These attractive flowers come in a range of colors, patterns and sizes. Choosing healthy bulbs from a garden center gives you access to a greater variety of plants, than simply purchasing a growing kit.
There are also more exotic examples available. The variety Misty produces fragrant, trumpet shaped white flowers. Equally attractive are the flowers of Papilio Butterfly. Here the blooms, striped in shades of red and purple, are commonly thought to resemble a butterfly.
How to Plant a Bulb
While bulbs can come ready planted, you may need to plant the bulb yourself. This is a pleasingly straightforward process.
If you can’t plant straight away, store the bulb in a cool dark, dry location until you are ready to use.
Bulbs that are already potted should be watered well with lukewarm water. This helps to wake up the bulb and encourages new growth to emerge.
Select a large, healthy looking bulb. Soaking the roots in lukewarm water helps to encourage the plant to establish itself in the soil.
Plant your bulb in a container 6 to 8 inches in size. Don’t plant in too large a pot. Amaryllis bulbs are more likely to flower if they are growing in compact conditions.
When selecting your container pay some attention to the weight of the pot. The heavier the better. This is because when the bulbs begin to flower they can become top heavy. Plants growing in light containers are prone to toppling or falling over. A heavier container is more likely to stay upright.
Your chosen bulb should be plump. There should also be some roots at the base of the bulb. Before planting, soak the roots in lukewarm water for a few hours. This helps to rehydrate the roots.
Place a layer of fresh potting mix in the container. When planted the top third of the bulb should sit above the soil level.
When you are happy with the position and level of the bulb, fill the container with more of the potting mix.
Taller varieties may require a support stake to help keep the plant upright. The best time to install the stake is when you plant the bulb. A bamboo stalk is ideal.
Water sparingly at first. Once the plants are established and new growth is visible, water when the soil is dry to the touch.
Place your plants in a bright position filled with lots of indirect light. Turn the container every few days. This allows the emerging flower stalk to get even exposure to light. It also helps to promote even growth all around the plant.
If cared for correctly your bulb will produce a stalk and begin flowering within 6 to 8 weeks. In less ideal conditions, some bulbs may take up to 10 weeks to flower.
Planting Amaryllis Bulbs Outside
In USDA zones 8 to 10, where temperatures do not fall below 10 ℉ you can plant amaryllis bulbs outside. Hardy or cold tolerant varieties can also be planted in USDA zone 7.
Plant in well-draining soil in a full sun position. These plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
In frost free areas plant the bulbs so that the neck is level, or slightly above soil level. In areas where frost may strike, plant the bulbs 5 to 6 inches above the soil. Apply a 4 to 5 inch thick layer of fine, organic mulch. This helps to protect the bulbs from cold temperatures and freezing soil.
After planting water well. Once growth is visible water only when the top 2 inches of soil are dry to the touch. When foliage begins to emerge, apply a balanced fertilizer. Continue to apply the fertilizer, in monthly doses, from April until the plant finishes flowering.
After flowering remove the stalks but allow the leaves to remain in place. Yellow foliage should be cut from the plant. Use a garden scissors to cut the foliage as close to the bulb as possible. From June until September water only when the soil is dry.
In the fall mulch bulbs in zone 7. Gardeners in warmer zones may also need to mulch the bulbs if unexpected cold weather is forecast.
As well as planting in the ground, you can also plant the bulbs in pots as part of an ornamental container garden. Remember to move the containers inside in the fall to protect the bulbs from cold temperatures.
Planting in Pebbles and Water
Amaryllis bulbs happily bloom when planted in stones and water.
Add some pebbles to a vase, creating a layer 2 to 4 inches thick.
Cut any brown or dry roots from the bulb. White and fleshy roots can remain in place. Position the bulb roots down on the stones. Place more pebbles around the bulb, covering all but the top third.
Add some water to the vase. The water level should be about 1 inch below the base of the bulb. Amaryllis bulbs allowed to sit in water can rot.
Place the vase on a sunny windowsill. The temperature should be consistently above 60 ℉. Regularly rotate the container, so that all areas of the bulb receive some daylight. The warmer the conditions, the faster the flower emerges.
As well as regularly rotating the vase you also need to regularly check the water level. When the water level falls, add more water to the vase.
Within 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the temperature, thick white roots will begin to emerge from the bulb. As they grow these roots push their way through the gaps in the stones. After a new root system has been established the stem of the plant will begin to grow. Finally the flower will emerge.
Once flowering is finished dispose of the bulb. Amaryllis bulbs in water rarely flower after the first year. If you don’t want to discard the bulb, you can try planting the bulb in soil. When planted and cared for correctly many bulbs will reflower.
How to Care for Amaryllis Bulbs
Once planted amaryllis is pleasingly easy to care for.
Regularly check the plants for spider mites or mealybugs. These can be removed by carefully picking from the plant or washing away with cotton wool dipped in neem oil.
Despite their elegant appearance these are one of the easiest ornamental plants to care for. With a little extra care the bulbs can also be encouraged to repeat flower, returning year after year.
When to Water
Water sparingly at first. When around 2 inches of fresh growth is visible, increase to a regular watering routine. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
After flowering has finished, continue to water until the plant becomes dormant in the fall.
Knowing how often to water houseplants can be difficult. If you are struggling to get your watering routine right, try investing in a soil moisture gauge such as the Atree Soil Meter. This allows you to not only monitor the moisture level of the soil but also allows you to see how much light your plant is receiving. This is particularly useful for light loving houseplants.
How to Fertilizer
Apply a half strength water soluble fertilizer once every two to three weeks. You can also apply a natural fertilizer.
Fertilizing your bulbs is not necessary if you only want the bulb to flower once. A healthy bulb contains all the food that it needs. Fertilizing helps to encourage the bulb to return year after year.
Use a garden scissors to prune away flowers as they fade. After the flowers have faded cut the flower stalk back to just above the bulb.
Where to Position Your Bulb
Place in a bright, indirect position. In the summer months you can put the plants outside in a partial shade position.
These plants do best if they receive lots of bright, indirect light. Instead of placing in a bright windowsill, position the plant slightly further in the room. This allows it to still receive lots of light without the danger of scorching the foliage.
You can also cut the flowers for display in a vase. Surprisingly the flowers last longer if cut. They can last up to two weeks if they are kept in fresh water.
Cutting amaryllis flowers also allows you to incorporate them into a drama filled centerpiece alongside other blooms and rich foliage.
How to Cut Flowers For a Display
The best time to cut the flowers is when the first bud has developed some color and is about to open. Cutting just before the plant opens allows the other buds on the stem time to form. With a sharp, clean garden scissors make a straight cut at the bottom of the stem. This enables the stem to sit evenly in the vase.
Amaryllis stems are hollow. This can cause the bottom of the stem to split or curl. Don’t worry if this happens, it won’t affect flowering.
Place the cut stem in a vase filled with fresh water. Add a floral preservative to the water. Regularly changing the water helps to prolong the lifespan of the flowers. In temperatures between 60 to 70 ℉ the flowers can last for up to 10 days.
These flowers make an attractive centerpiece, either still in its container or cut and incorporated into a floral display. Consequently many growers like to force the bulbs to flower for the holiday season.
When Will my Amaryllis Flower?
Amaryllis often fails to flower if the bulb is not allowed a rest period. Planting in poor soil, or not providing enough light can also prevent flowering.
If your amaryllis is producing foliage but no flower stem, this is not a major concern. Some varieties like to produce foliage before a flower stalk becomes visible later. Other varieties produce a flower stalk first and foliage afterwards. If you look carefully in the foliage you may see a flower stalk beginning to emerge.
While some varieties produce only one flower stalk, other bulbs produce more. In general larger bulbs produce more stalks than smaller bulbs.
How to Encourage the Bulb to Flower in the Second Year
Once flowering is complete many people discard the bulbs. However, with a little post flowering care the bulbs can be encouraged to reflower many times over. It simply requires a little planning and some extra care.
After the flower has faded, cut the flower stalk down to about 1 inch above the bulb. Continue watering and applying a liquid houseplant fertilizer on a regular basis.
During the spring and summer months amaryllis plants produce foliage. This helps the plant to harvest and store energy which powers flower production the following year. Gradually cease watering in August and allow the foliage to naturally die back.
If the plant doesn’t go dormant, cut away the foliage and re-pot.
Place the bulb in a cool, dark dry place for at least 8 weeks. You can leave the bulb in this position a little longer if you need to.
6 to 8 weeks before you want the amaryllis to resume flowering, re-pot the bulb in fresh potting soil. Place the freshly potted bulb in a bright position and begin watering. Water sparingly at first, until new growth emerges.
If you are able to keep your amaryllis for a number of years, you will notice that the bulb grows in size. This means you may, at some point, have to start planting in a larger pot. Don’t select an overly large container, these plants like conditions to be snug.
How to Force Bulbs for Holiday Flowering
Alongside the Christmas Cactus, the amaryllis is a popular festive flower.
If you want to force your bulb to flower during the winter festive period cut back the flower stalk once flowering has finished. Allow the foliage to remain in place. You can place the bulbs outside, in partial shade, during the summer. Keep the soil evenly moist.
Cease feeding the bulb in August. Allow the foliage to naturally die back.
In September or October, once the foliage has died away, place the plant in a cool, dark location, about 55 to 60 ℉. Cease watering 10 to 12 weeks before you want the plant to flower.
The dark, cool conditions should encourage the plant to send up a flower stalk. When this emerges resume watering and place the plant in a warm, sunny spot. Foliage and flowers will soon emerge in time for the festive period.
Elegant and attractive, these plants are surprisingly easy to grow. This has helped to make them a popular houseplant. With a little extra care you can enjoy the flowers year after year.
A pleasingly easy to grow houseplant, the exotic appearance of the amaryllis plant is a great way to add color and floral interest to your home. While many growers like to force the bulbs for holiday flowering, as long as you give the plants enough light, they will reward you with a pleasing display of colorful flowers.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.