Forcing Amaryllis Bulbs

Amaryllis are popular flowering bulbs which are forced indoors for their large, spectacular blooms during the winter months.  The colorful flowers help to brighten the gray days of winter.  Amaryllis bulbs are also great Christmas gifts.

Types and Cultivars

Amaryllis are available in a wide range of colors. Flower colors include red, pink, orange, salmon, white, and bicolors.  Single-flowering, double-flowering, and miniature amaryllis cultivars are available. 

Excellent single-blooming cultivars include ‘Apple Blossom’ (white with pink feathering), ‘Blushing Bride’ (rose-pink), ‘Christmas Gift’ (white with green throat), ‘Merry Christmas’ (bright red), ‘Minerva’ (red with white star), ‘Naranja’ (red-orange), ‘Picotee’ (white petals edged in red), ‘Orange Sovereign’ (orange), ‘Red Lion’ (crimson red), and ‘Wedding Dance’ (pure white with pale green throat). 

A Merry Christmas Amaryllis
A Merry Christmas Amaryllis

Double-flowering cultivars include ‘Aphrodite’ (white with pinkish red feathering), ‘Blossom Peacock’ (rose-red with white throat and midrib), ‘Dancing Queen’ (red and white striped), ‘Inferno’ (dark red), ‘Rozetta’ (pale pink), ‘Snow White’ (white), and ‘White Nymph’ (white). 

A White Nymph Amaryllis
A White Nymph Amaryllis 

Miniature cultivars are only slightly shorter than their single- and double-flowering counterparts.  However, their flowers are about half the width of the large flowering types.  Excellent miniature cultivars include ‘Baby Star’ (crimson red with white center star), ‘Fairytale’ (white with raspberry red stripes), ‘Green Goddess’ (white with green center), ‘Lemon Sorbet’ (greenish yellow), and ‘Neon’ (fuchsia pink with white throat). 

Amaryllis bulbs can be purchased pre-planted in pots or unpotted.  When purchasing amaryllis, select large, solid bulbs.  The largest bulbs usually produce 2 or 3 flower stalks. 

Potting and Forcing

When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot which is approximately 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb.  The container may be clay, ceramic or plastic, but should have drainage holes in the bottom.  Plant the bulb in a well-drained potting mix.  Place a small amount of the potting mix in the bottom of the pot.  Center the bulb in the middle of the pot.  Then add additional potting soil, firming it around the roots and bulb.  When finished potting, the upper one-half of the bulb should remain above the soil surface.  Also, leave about one inch between the soil surface and the pot’s rim.  Then water thoroughly and place in a warm (70 to 75°F) location. 

Check the pot before watering a pre-planted amaryllis bulb.  If the container doesn’t have drainage holes, remove the bulb.  Drill small holes in the bottom of the container and replant or transfer the bulb to a pot with drainage holes. 

After the initial watering, water just enough to keep the potting mix barely moist.  When growth appears, move the plant to a sunny window and water more frequently.  During flower stalk elongation, turn the pot daily to keep the flower stalk growing straight.  Stake flower stalks that lean badly. 

When the amaryllis begins to bloom, move the plant to a slightly cooler (65 to 70°F) location that doesn’t receive direct sun to prolong the life of the flowers. 

South African-grown amaryllis bulbs typically bloom 3 to 5 weeks after potting.  Cultivars commonly grown in South Africa include ‘Blushing Bride,’ ‘Inferno,’ ‘Lemon Sorbet,’ ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Rozetta,’ ‘Snow White,’ and ‘Wedding Dance.’   Dutch-grown amaryllis bulbs typically bloom 6 to 8 weeks after potting.  Cultivars commonly grown in the Netherlands include ‘Aphrodite,’ ‘Apple Blossom,’ ‘Baby Star,’ ‘Christmas Gift,’ ‘Dancing Queen,’ ‘Minerva,’ ‘Naranja,’ ‘Neon,’ ‘Picotee,’ ‘Red Lion,’ and ‘White Nymph.’   

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