When to Divide Amaryllis Belladonna

One of the naked ladies, the amaryllis belladonna is an attractive ornamental bulb flower. Easy to care for, learning how and when to divide amaryllis belladonna is an important part of plant maintenance.

This guide to when to divide amaryllis belladonna will take you through the entire process, explaining exactly how and when to divide these attractive flowering bulbs. We will also share some care and maintenance tips, helping you get the best out of your blooms.

1 Amaryllis belladonna

These are attractive ornamental plants.  

What is Amaryllis Belladonna?

Native to South Africa, the amaryllis belladonna is an attractive ornamental flowering plant.

Part of the amaryllis genus, these bulbous plants are grown predominantly for their showy, funnel-shaped flowers. These emerge in late summer and early fall.

Interestingly, unlike most other flowers, the blooms of the naked lady emerge only after the strap shaped foliage has died back. This habit, of producing a flower on a naked stem, has given the amaryllis bulb its alternative name of naked lady. The plants are also commonly known as the Jersey or belladonna lily.

Amaryllis belladonna plants typically produce foliage in spring and late fall. In between this, during the late summer and early fall, large flowers develop.

2 Amaryllis belladonna flowers
Funnel-shaped flowers sit on long, leafless stalks. 

With the right care this is a long lasting perennial plant. Most varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

A tall plant, most varieties reach a height of around 2 ft. The long, strappy green leaves can grow up to 18 inches in length. Different varieties can produce pink, white or red flowers. In addition to being colorful, the flowers are also fragrant. Their sweet, fruity aroma draws pollinators, particularly butterflies, to the garden.

A versatile plant, these attractive, ornamental bulbs are ideal for mixed floral beds and borders. They also work well in cut flower gardens, container gardens, borders, pots or as a houseplant.

Warning. Amaryllis bulbs are toxic to both humans and animals. It can cause both vomiting and diarrhea if consumed. Wear gloves when handling the bulbs and wash your hands afterwards. Animals can also become lethargic and unwell if they consume the bulbs. Position the bulbs in pots out of reach of your pets.

3 Amaryllis belladonna is toxic
Despite their attractiveness, the toxicity of these plants means that they are not ideal for every garden. Better Gardens by A.Davey / CC 2.0

How and When to Divide Amaryllis Belladonna

There are a number of reasons why you should learn how and when to divide amaryllis belladonna.

As amaryllis belladonna bulbs mature they grow into a clump. As this clump grows in size, flowering diminishes. Knowing when and how to divide this clump rejuvenates flowering.

Knowing how and when to divide the bulb clump not only rejuvenates your amaryllis belladonna, it also provides you with a free source of new bulbs. These can either be planted elsewhere in your garden or gifted to friends and family.

In general you need to divide the naked lady bulb clump every 5 to 6 years. Regularly dividing keeps the plants productive and healthy.

Sadly, while these plants dislike growing in a clump of bulbs they also dislike being disturbed.  As a result flowering may be reduced or non-existent during the year after dividing. But don’t worry, after settling in, the plants usually return to their full glory in a year or two.

4 Amaryllis belladonna bulb clump
Clumps of bulbs form as the plants mature. 200829 202 Encinitas SD Botanic by cultivar413 / CC 2.0

The timing of when you divide your bulb clump has an affect on how quickly the bulbs recover and resume flowering.

Many growers find that the best time to divide amaryllis belladonna is in late summer or early to mid fall, once the bulb has finished growing for the year and entered its winter dormant period. Easy to spot signs that the bulb is dormant include flowers fading and the foliage turning brown and dying away.

Don’t disturb the bulb while the foliage is still green. Green foliage is helping the bulb harvest energy; this is then stored in the bulb enabling it to survive its winter dormancy before returning the following year.

5 Divide amaryllis belladonna

Don’t divide the bulbs when they are producing foliage or flowers. Amaryllis bulbs by Nigel Hoult / CC 2.0 

Use a hand trowel to dig the soil around the bulb clump. Be careful not to damage the bulbs.

Lift the bulb clump out of the soil. You may need to use a garden fork to lift the clump from the soil.

Divide the bulbs by hand. The smaller bulbs should easily come away. If they don’t, gently twist the bulb. Start at the edge of the clump and work in towards the older, central bulbs. As you separate the bulbs, check each one for signs of damage or disease.

After separating, replant some of the central or more mature bulbs in their original position. The other bulbs can be replanted in pots filled with fresh well-draining potting soil or elsewhere in the garden. If you don’t have room for any more flowers, the bulbs can also be gifted to friends and family.

When replanting make sure that at least two-thirds of the bulb is under ground.

Remember, the naked lady plant dislikes being divided. The disruption caused by division can cause the bulbs to skip flowering the following year. If the bulbs do flower, the display may not be as full as in previous years. Once recovered the bulb will resume producing full, floral displays.

6 Amaryllis bulb
After lifting, check the bulbs for signs of damage or disease. Amaryllis Bulb by Sarah Nichols / CC 2.0

You can also divide the amaryllis bulbs in late spring or early summer. This is best done once the foliage has faded and before the flower shoot appears. You will need to be quick, the flower stalk can appear overnight. Don’t divide the naked lady when it is in flower or leaves are present on the plant.

Gently dig around the clump with a hand trowel. You may need to use a garden fork to get under the clump and lift it from the soil. Carefully remove the bulbs from the clump, discarding any bulbs that are damaged or diseased. Replant some bulbs in the original position and replant the others around your garden.

If you are trying to get rid of amaryllis belladonna from one of your garden beds you will need to dig up all of the bulbs. Small bulbs are easily overlooked. Additionally, flowers that have been allowed to set seed can spread the seeds over the soil.

Seeds can return for up to a decade. If this is the case, you need to watch the soil and dig up plants as and when they emerge.

Naked Lady Care Tips

Knowing how and when to divide amaryllis belladonna is an important part of caring for these plants. However, there are some other care tips that you need to know. Easy to follow, caring correctly for naked lady bulbs ensures a full, colorful and fragrant display year after year.

7 Amaryllis belladonna is low maintenance

These are easy to care for flowers.  

Plant your naked lady bulbs in either a full sun or partial shade position. The more sun that the plants are exposed to the more flowers they produce.

Your soil should be rich and well draining. A neutral to slightly acidic soil is preferable but the plants tolerate all types of soil as long as it isn’t too extreme. Enrich the soil with compost before planting.

Amaryllis belladonna bulbs are best planted in either the fall, after their predicted bloom time but before the first frost, or in late spring and early summer.

8 Plant amaryllis belladonna is warm soil
Planting close to a south facing wall helps to keep bulbs warm. Amaryllis-belladonna and Cyclamen by Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC 2.0

To plant, dig a hole in the soil large enough to hold the bulbs. In mild winters, USDA Zones 9 and warmer, plant the bulbs close to the top of or just below the soil surface.

In USDA Zones 7 and 8 plant the bulbs slightly deeper, 4 to 6 inches down depending on their size. Here, planting in naturally warm soil such as close to a south facing wall helps to keep the bulbs warm throughout the winter.

Amaryllis belladonna is best planted in groups. Space the bulbs 8 to 12 inches apart.

Before planting the bulb, work some Burpee bone meal fertilizer or all-purpose fertilizer into the bottom of the hole. This helps the bulb to settle and encourages a healthy root system to form.


After planting, water well. Keep the soil moist until the plants are established. Once a healthy root system has formed the plants are more drought tolerant.


For an extra boost, apply an all-purpose fertilizer or bulb food in early spring. Granular products, such as Jobes Organic Fertilizer for Bulbs can be mixed into the soil to give your plants a nutritious boost.

You can also mulch around the bulb with aged compost. This breaks down, enriching the soil and giving your bulbs a boost. Just be careful not to cover the bulb.

In cold, wet regions, usually USDA Zones 6 and cooler, you will need to lift the bulbs in the fall and store them in a cool, dry place. The bulbs can either be placed in a crate or covered in peat moss, vermiculite or straw. A temperature of 55 to 70 ℉ is ideal. Replant the bulbs in the spring.

While they are easy to grow, these are temperamental plants. Ideally the temperature needs to be 70 to 75 ℉ during the growing season for flowers to form. During the winter months the bulbs require at least 8 weeks of temperatures around 50 to 55 ℉.

Exposure to temperatures moderately outside this range may delay flowering. Exposure to extremes of temperature may kill the bulbs.

Amaryllis belladonna bulbs growing in pots can be placed in a cool, sheltered room or greenhouse for the winter. A temperature of 40 to 70 ℉ is ideal.

In warmer areas, mulch the soil, covering the bulbs. Remember to remove the mulch in the spring before the foliage starts to emerge.

Learning how and when to divide amaryllis belladonna is the easiest way to propagate the plants.

9 Problem free Amaryllis belladonna

These are problem free plants. Amaryllis-belladonna | RHS Wisley Gardens in Surrey by Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC 2.0

Largely pest and problem free. Be careful not to overwater the bulbs. This can cause rot. Many pests, including larger animals such as gophers and deer, avoid amaryllis belladonna because of their toxicity.

The amaryllis belladonna’s habit of producing foliage that dies away before flowering means that the plants can often leave a lot of bare earth. Weeding the soil can be time consuming but is necessary. Planting low growing ground cover plants is one way to fill the soil and deter weeds without harming your bulbs.

Another option is to plant other bulbs that flower at different times of the year; for example spring flowering tulips and daffodils. Another good option is to plant flowers and herbs that share similar growing preferences. Rosemary and lavender are both good amaryllis belladonna companions, creating an aromatic display.

10 Weed amaryllis belladonna
Companion planting helps to cover the bare earth around the plants. Amaryllis belladonna by The Ruth Bancroft Garden / CC 2.0

Attractive and easy to care for, amaryllis belladonna is a showy addition to any home or garden. Learning how and when to divide amaryllis belladonna is an essential skill that is satisfyingly easy to master. Once you know how to divide amaryllis belladonna you will also be able to divide other clump forming bulbous plants.

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