When to Plant Naked Lady Bulbs

The naked lady is an attractive, fragrant flower that makes an ideal addition to the home or garden.

Versatile enough to sit in the garden or in a pot in your home, despite their showy appearance these are surprisingly easy to care for flowers. In fact, one of the most difficult care aspects is knowing when to plant naked lady bulbs.

If you want to learn when to plant naked lady bulbs this guide is for you. As well as explaining when to plant, we will also explain how to plant naked lady bulbs and share some key care tips.

1 When to plant naked lady bulbs
Amaryllis belladonna is an attractive addition to the garden.  

What are Naked Lady Flowers?

Growing from a bulb, naked lady, or Amaryllis belladonna is an eye-catching flower. Native to South Africa, the naked lady plant or Amaryllis belladonna belongs to the Amaryllidaceae plant family. Today the flowers are commonly grown in homes and gardens throughout the world.

In addition to showy, fragrant flowers, Amaryllis belladonna produces long, strappy green leaves. The name naked lady refers to the bulb’s habit of producing foliage which dies away before an elongated flower stem emerges. When in full bloom the flowers sit on the bare stem, with no surrounding foliage.

Naked lady bulbs, or Amaryllis belladonna, are exquisitely showy flowers. The large fragrant flowers work well in mixed beds, rock and gravel gardens or in pots either on a patio, balcony or in your home. As well as adding interest and color, the fragrance also draws pollinators to your garden. In fact Amaryllis belladonna flowers are often described as butterfly magnets.

2 Large fragrant naked lady flowers
Amaryllis belladonna is popular for its large, fragrant flowers.  

Naked lady flowers have a number of other names including:

  • Jersey lily,
  • Resurrection lily,
  • Surprise lily,
  • Magic lily,
  • March lily,
  • Belladonna lily.

Warning, Amaryllis belladonna is a toxic bulb. To protect your skin, wear work gloves and a long sleeved top when handling any variety of Amaryllis and wash your hands afterwards. If you have pets or small children, position the Amaryllis belladonna flowers out of their reach by planting in raised beds or pots.

When to Plant Naked Lady Bulbs

Knowing exactly when to plant naked lady bulbs is key if you want lots of stunning flowers to emerge. While they are easy to care for, Amaryllis Belladonna can be reluctant to flower if they are disturbed or are not planted at the right time.

3 Heavy flowering naked ladies
In favorable conditions these are heavy flowering specimens. Amaryllis belladonna by Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC 2.0

Planting at the right time gives your naked lady bulbs plenty of time to establish themselves and set out roots before flowering in the summer.

In USDA growing zones where Amaryllis belladonna is hardy, usually USDA Zones 7 to 10 but this can vary depending on the variety, naked lady bulbs are best planted in the fall. At this stage the soil temperatures are cool but not cold and there is lots of moisture in the air.

Planting in the fall gives the bulb time to settle and develop roots before producing foliage and flowers the following spring.

You can also plant naked lady bulbs in the spring. If your climate is too cold to overwinter Amaryllis belladonna in the ground, planting in the spring and lifting in the fall to store inside overwinter, enables you to enjoy these showy flowers year after year.

Now that you know when to plant naked lady bulbs, it is time to discuss how to plant them.

4 Plant naked lady bulbs

Planting at the right time ensures healthy blooms during the summer months.

How to Plant Naked Lady Bulbs

In the right conditions, you can grow naked lady bulbs in the ground or in pots and planters.

Most of the commonly sold and cultivated varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10. With a little extra care you can cultivate Amaryllis belladonna as perennials in areas down to USDA Zone 4. You can also cultivate as annuals in USDA Zones 3 to 6. In cooler areas, lifting and storing the bulbs during the winter, or moving pots indoors, enables you to enjoy floral displays year after year.

5 Amaryllis bulbs

Amaryllis grows just as well in pots as it does in the groundamaryllis bulb by Teresa Trimm / CC 2.0

One of the main requirements for the successful cultivation of naked lady bulbs is well draining soil. If you are planting in the ground, work in lots of organic matter such as compost before planting. You can also work some horticultural sand into the soil to help improve drainage and aeration.

Ideally the soil should also be slightly acidic; a pH between 5.5 and 7.0 is perfect but the bulbs will grow in soils outside this range as long as it isn’t too extreme. Overly alkaline soils can be neutralized by working in compost or sulfur. If you are unsure of your soil’s pH level a soil test kit provides a quick and easy way to find out.

If you are growing in a pot, fill a large pot with fresh, well draining potting soil. Your pot should also have some drainage holes in the bottom; this encourages excess moisture to drain from the soil preventing bulb rot.

6 Plant bulbs in full sun
Grow Amaryllis belladonna in an open, sunny position. Amaryllis belladonna by Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC 2.0

Your chosen position should also enjoy lots of sunlight. Different Amaryllis belladonna varieties have different light requirements; check the information that comes with your Amaryllis belladonna before planting.

In general it is best to grow your flowers somewhere that enjoys at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. The more light Amaryllis belladonna receives the better it grows.

Without enough light, a naked lady can struggle to flower. The foliage may also turn yellow or wilt.

If you are growing as a houseplant, a south facing window is the ideal position for your Amaryllis. East and west facing windows also enjoy ample light.

When you are ready to plant, dig a hole large enough to hold the bulb. Smaller bulbs can be planted to a depth two to three times their height; so a one inch bulb is planted in a hole 2 to 3 inches deep.

Larger bulbs can be planted to a depth of three to four times their height or a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

Center the bulb in the hole with the pointed end sticking up. When planted the pointed end of the bulb should sit level with or slightly stick out just above soil level. In cooler climates planting slightly deeper, so that the top of the bulb is just below soil level helps to protect the bulb from frosts and cold temperatures.

When you are happy with the position of the bulb, backfill the hole with more soil and water well.

After watering, add a layer of mulch to the soil around the bulb. This helps the soil to retain moisture and nutrients; just be careful not to cover the bulb with mulch.

If you are planting more than one bulb, space them at least 3 to 4 inches apart. This gives each bulb ample room to develop and set healthy roots as well as giving you a pleasingly full display in the summer.

7 Plant naked lady bulbs in groups
Planting in groups gives a fuller display. Amaryllis belladonna ‘Johannesburg’ by Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC 2.0

Naked Lady Bulb Care Tips

After learning how and when to plant naked lady bulbs, the next step on your journey is learning how to care for these attractive flowers.

When planted in the right position, these are pleasingly low maintenance flowers. This makes them an ideal choice for novice or nervous gardeners as well as people who want to enjoy colorful flowers but don’t have a lot of time to spend in the garden.

As with many flowers, the most important part of Amaryllis belladonna care is watering. Despite having some drought tolerance, when your naked lady is actively growing and flowering it is important that you water it regularly. This helps to sustain growth.

Aim to keep the soil around your Amaryllis belladonna damp.

Be careful not to overwater and soak the soil, this can cause bulb rot to form. A soil moisture sensor is a useful tool if you struggle to determine how wet the soil is.

Naked ladies growing in pots require more frequent watering than those in the ground.

Water newly planted Amaryllis belladonna flowers regularly, keeping the soil moist. This helps the plant to set out a good root system before temperatures fall and their winter dormancy begins.

In the fall, when the bulbs are dormant there is no need to water.

During the growing season a regular dose of balanced fertilizer or compost helps to sustain growth and promote flowering. Naked ladies benefit from a dose of fertilizer once every two to four weeks during the growing season. Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food is easy to use and suitable for both indoor and outdoor flowers; just dilute the specified dosage amount in a watering can and apply to the soil around your flowers.

8 Weed the soil around bulbs
Weed the soil around your Amaryllis belladonna flowers regularly. Amaryllis belladonna by Damià Vinent Olives / CC 2.0

Weed the soil around each bulb regularly to prevent weed growth. Be careful not to damage the bulb when weeding.

Unless you want to save the seeds, deadhead the flowers when they fade. Allow the foliage to remain in place until it withers. Don’t cut away the foliage while it is still green. The leaves play an important role, helping the bulb to harvest and store enough energy to survive its dormancy and return the following spring.

As temperatures fall for the winter you may, depending on your growing zone, need to take action to successfully overwinter the bulbs. In mild climates the bulbs can be left in the ground. A layer of mulch can be spread over the soil to offer some protection in case of an unexpected frost. A good organic mulch is ideal; additionally as it breaks down the mulch enriches the soil providing your flowers with a nutrient boost in the spring.


In cooler climates you may need to lift the bulbs and store them inside, in a cool, dry room, until the winter has passed. The bulbs can be replanted outside in the spring once your last frost date has passed and the soil is workable.

If you are growing in pots, simply move the pots inside or to a greenhouse for the winter. Large or full pots are often heavy, making them difficult to easily move. Placing your pots on a Gartol Rolling Metal Plant Caddy takes much of the strain away from moving heavy flowerpots.

Because of their toxicity many pests avoid Amaryllis belladonna. Gophers and deer also tend to avoid the flowers.

Propagating Amaryllis Belladonna

Not only are naked lady bulbs easy to grow and care for, they are also easy to propagate.

As they mature naked lady bulbs produce offsets. Dividing not only gives you more flowers it also helps to rejuvenate the older bulbs.

Divisions are best made in the fall when your Amaryllis belladonna is dormant. To divide, gently lift the Amaryllis belladonna bulb from the soil. Take your time as you do this; you don’t want to damage the bulb.

After lifting the bulbs, brush away any dirt. Gently pull the small bulbs (offsets) from the larger bulb. If they don’t come away easily, gently twist the bulb.

Each new bulb should have a healthy section of root. Replant the bulbs immediately or store in a cold, dry location for the winter before planting in the spring.

9 Naked lady bulb clumps

As the bulb matures, offsets develop. 200829 202 Encinitas by cultivar413 / CC BY 2.0

You can also grow Amaryllis belladonna from seed. Viable seeds can either be purchased from garden stores or harvested flowering specimens.

Sow the seeds in a seed tray or small pots filled with moist, well draining potting soil. The MIXC Seed Starter Tray Mini Greenhouse Kit has a fitted humidity dome. This enables you to control the temperature and humidity levels around your seeds and seedlings, ensuring the perfect conditions for germination and growth are maintained.

Cover the seedlings with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite. Place the tray in a propagator in a sunny spot and moisten regularly. Don’t allow the soil to dry out.

Germination usually takes 2 weeks.

When they are large enough to handle the seedlings can be transplanted into individual pots and cared for indoors until they are large enough to go into your garden.

Be warned, growing from seed is a far slower process than harvesting offsets. It can take up to 6 years for a naked lady bulb grown from seed to start setting flowers.

Colorful and fragrant Amaryllis belladonna is a welcome addition to any home and garden. Learning how and when to plant naked lady bulbs gives you the best possible chance of successfully growing these attractive flowers.

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