Amaryllis (Hippeastrum species) are tender perennial bulbs native to Central and South America. It is most commonly grown as a houseplant, but can be planted outdoors in mild winter areas (zone 8 and warmer). Few potted plants can equal or rival its beauty, as its flowers are large and vibrantly colored.
Although sometimes treated as a disposable gift plant, amaryllis is a long-lived bulb that will grow and flower for many years when given the proper care.
How to Plant
Plant amaryllis bulbs in a pot just 1 to 2 inches larger than the diameter of the bulb, as plants like to be rootbound. Amaryllis bulbs tend to be large in size, so a 6 inch pot is usually the smallest size. Plant in a high quality, well-drained, peat based medium. If bulbs cannot be planted immediately, they can be stored in a dark location at 40 to 50°F.
Fill the pot half full of growing medium and set the bulb with its thickest part about an inch below the rim of the pot. Continue to fill the pot until the bulb is half to two thirds covered and the media is half an inch to an inch below the rim of the pot, to allow for easy watering. The tip, or “neck” of the bulb will remain exposed. When the pot is filled to the proper level, water thoroughly with lukewarm water. If the media settles after watering, add additional media to bring it to the proper level.
Place in a sunny, warm location (60 to 80°F). Sprouting will generally start 2 to 8 weeks after potting. Turning the pot regularly helps prevent the foliage and flower stems from leaning toward the light. Amaryllis bulbs will usually flower about 6 to 8 weeks after growth begins.
Water sparingly, and only when the top of the medium is dry, until the flower buds appear. Once buds form, watering can be increased. Keep the medium evenly moist, but not saturated. Especially on tall varieties, support for the flower stalk may be needed to keep flower stems from flopping. For a longer flowering period, move blooming amaryllis into a somewhat cooler environment, with temperatures of 60 to 65°F. For the longest flower life, keep blooming amaryllis out of direct sunlight.
Remove individual flowers from the stalk as they fade. After the last flower dies, carefully cut the flower stalk off a few inches above the bulb. The leaves usually appear after flowering, and if the foliage droops, it can be staked up if desired. In order for an amaryllis bulb to rebloom, proper care after flowering is critical. At this point, leaves grow and begin to store nutrients in the bulb to fuel growth the next season. Keeping plants actively growing and not stressed for water or nutrients will ensure they can store the maximum amount of food in the bulb. Keep the pot in a warm, sunny spot and water as needed.
After the last spring frost, pots can be moved outdoors and buried in the ground in a sunny location with only the foliage above ground. Top dress with well-composted manure and every four weeks fertilize the bulb with a general-purpose liquid fertilizer. This summer fertilization helps ensure good flowering in future seasons.
Dig pots out of the ground before the first fall frost and store by laying them on their sides in a cool (55°F) location. Do not disturb the foliage and do not water during this time. After 6 to 10 weeks, the old foliage and skins can be removed from the bulb and pots can be brought in to a warm, sunny locations to resume growing.
Pots can also be maintained indoors during the spring and summer in a sunny, warm location. Water as needed and fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer solution.
Stop fertilizing in late August to early September. Pots moved outdoors must be brought indoors before the first fall frost. Amaryllis needs a cool temperature period to rebloom, but does not need to go fully dormant. Allowing plants to go dormant during the cooling period can be used to schedule their reblooming more precisely, by varying the length of the dormant period and when it begins. To have flowering amaryllis in time for Christmas season, plants need to be put into dormancy in August. To force amaryllis to go dormant, store pots by laying them on their sides in a cool (50 to 55°F), dark location. Do not disturb the foliage or water during this time. Amaryllis can be kept dormant for 8 to 12 weeks. By this time, the old foliage will have browned and can be removed. Pots can then be brought into a warm, sunny location and watered so that they resume growing.
For plants not put into dormancy, move them into a well-lit, cool (55°F) location and water as needed. Grow at the cool temperature for 8 to 12 weeks. Flowering will usually begin 6 to 8 weeks after plants are moved to warmer (60 to 80°F) conditions.
Amaryllis is a moderate feeder and benefits from monthly fertilization when actively growing. Use a balanced fertilizer like ALGOplus All Purpose 6-6-6.
Amaryllis is generally easy-to-grow and suffers few pest or disease problems. Bulbs that do not flower in their second season may not have produced enough stored food reserves to support flowering. This is usually caused by insufficient light levels or lack of fertilization. Another possibility is that they did not receive a long enough dormant or cold period (at least 8 to 10 weeks at 50 to 55°F for most varieties). Bulbs that do not flower may also be suffering from bulb rot. Gently squeeze the sides of the bulbs to check whether it is still firm. If the bulb has significant “give” or is soft to the touch, discard it. Overwatering can lead to bulb rot.
Occasionally insect pests will attack amaryllis, particularly for plants that spend time outside. Spider mites, mealybugs, and thrips are the most common pests. They can be treated with insecticidal soap.
Paperwhite daffodils are another flowering bulb that is easy to be forced into bloom indoors.
Safer Insecticidal Soap can be used to treat pest problems. Coco Coir Mix Brick media can be used as an alternative to peat potting mixes.
The common name Amaryllis is from Greek and means "to sparkle." Amaryllis is classified in the genus Hippeastrum also originates from Greek, and translates as "horseman's star."
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