Amaryllis are popular flowering bulbs that are forced indoors for their large, spectacular blooms during the winter months. The trumpet-shaped flowers can be as large as 8 to 10 inches across and are produced atop an 18- to 30-inch-tall flower stalk. Flower colors include red, pink, orange, salmon, white, and bi-colors. Single-flowering, double-flowering, and miniature amaryllis varieties are available.
Although their flowers resemble lilies, the amaryllis belongs to the Amaryllidaceae family. Its genus is Hippeastrum. Amaryllis are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas. Both the bulb and the plant are poisonous.
Amaryllis are available in a wide range of colors. Flower colors include red, pink, orange, salmon, white, and bi-colors. 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)+
- 'Prince Carnaval' (white with red stripes)
- ‘Orange Sovereign’ (orange)
- ‘Red Lion’ (crimson red)+
- 'Wedding Dance’ (pure white with pale green throat)*
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)*
- 'Lady Jane (rose-pink with white streaks down the center of each petal)
- ‘Rozetta’ (pale pink)*
- 'Pasadena' (red with white streaks)
- ‘Snow White' (white)*
- 'White Nymph’ (white)+
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)*
- ‘Neon’ (fuchsia pink with white throat)+
* Typically produced in South Africa and bloom 3 to 5 weeks after potting
+ Typically produced in the Netherlands and bloom 6 to 8 weeks after potting
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. Pot amaryllis bulbs in early to mid-November for bloom during the Christmas holidays.
When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot that 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.
Some amaryllis bulb kits come with a compressed disk of coir (developed from coconut husks) to use as a soilless potting media. Rehydrate the coir by adding warm water and waiting for it to expand and loosen. Frequently this disk does not provide enough potting media to adequately pot the bulb. In most cases, it is easier to forget the disk of coir and just use general, all-purpose, well-drained potting soil.
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. Dutch-grown amaryllis bulbs typically bloom 6 to 8 weeks after potting.
Some individuals discard the amaryllis after flowering. However, it is possible to save the amaryllis and force it to flower on an annual basis. The key to successful reflowering is proper care.
After the flowers fade, cut off the flower stalk with a sharp knife or pruners. Make the cut 1 to 2 inches above the bulb. Do not damage the foliage. In order for the bulb to bloom again next season, the plant must replenish its depleted food reserves. The strap-like leaves manufacture food for the plant. Place the plant in a sunny window and water when the soil surface is nearly dry. Fertilize every 2 to 4 weeks with a dilute fertilizer solution. A balanced all-purpose fertilizer at half strength works well.
The amaryllis can be moved outdoors in late May. Harden or acclimate the plant to the outdoors by initially placing it in a shady, protected area. After 2 or 3 days, gradually expose the amaryllis to longer periods of direct sun. Once hardened, select a site in part sun. Dig a hole and set the pot into the ground. Outdoors, continue to water the plant during dry weather. Also, continue to fertilize the amaryllis once or twice a month through July. Bring the plant indoors in mid-September. Plants left indoors should be kept in a sunny window and watered and fertilized in the same way as those grown outdoors.
In order to bloom, amaryllis bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 50° to 55°F for a minimum of 8 to 10 weeks. This can be accomplished by inducing the plant to go dormant and then storing the dormant bulb at a temperature of 50° to 55°F.
To induce dormancy, place the plant in a cool, semi-dark location in late September and withhold water. Cut off the foliage when the leaves turn brown. Then place the dormant bulb in a 50° to 55°F location for at least 8 to 10 weeks. After the cool requirement has been met, start the growth cycle again by watering the bulb and placing it in a well-lighted, 70° to 75°F location.
Rather than inducing dormancy, another option is to place the plant in a well-lit, 50° to 55°F location in the fall. Maintain the amaryllis as a green plant from fall until early to mid-winter. After the cool requirement has been met, move the plant to a warmer (70° to 75°F) location.
When growth resumes, some amaryllis bulbs produce foliage, but no flowers. Amaryllis that fail to bloom may not have been able to store adequate food reserves in their bulbs in spring and summer. Fertilize plants at a higher rate or more frequently in the spring and summer months and be sure to provide adequate light. Bulbs will produce flowers when the bulb has produced and stored enough carbohydrates.
Occasionally, bulbs fail to flower because they have not been exposed to the proper temperatures. Provide temperatures of 50° to 55°F for 8 to 10 weeks to initiate flower development.
Amaryllis bulbs coated in colorful and decorative wax are available in many catalogs, stores, and garden centers. Waxed amaryllis bulbs make excellent gifts because they are easy to care for and grow as they require no water or soil. Simply place the bulb in bright, indirect light. Flower stalks emerge in 4 to 6 weeks (sometimes less) utilizing the stored carbohydrates in the large bulb. Rotate the bulb every few days to keep the stalk growing straight. Often two, sometimes three or four, flower stalks will grow producing blooms for up to three weeks. Remove each flower stalk as the last bloom on it fades. Avoid purchasing waxed bulbs that have started to bloom or have spent flower stalks. These bulbs may not bloom in your home or will have a greatly reduced length of bloom.
Waxed bulbs are intended to be grown as single-use bulbs. When flowering is done, discard the bulb. Remove the wax before composting as some waxes, as well as the glitter that is frequently embedded in the wax, may not readily break down in your compost pile.
Can I Get My Waxed Amaryllis Bulb to Rebloom?
While it is not recommended that you save waxed bulbs, you can potentially get them to rebloom with diligent care. Once the last flower stalk has faded, leaves will begin to slowly emerge. Carefully remove the wax from the outside of the bulb. Take special care to not damage any of the small emerging roots at the base of the bulb. Sometimes these small roots are embedded in the wax and can be easily broken off if the wax is not carefully removed.
You may be surprised to see that the wax shell is now larger than the bulb inside. This is because stored carbohydrates in the bulb were used to produce flowers. With no water or soil available, the plant has a greatly reduced ability to replace those food reserves. This reduction in carbohydrates stored in the bulb causes it to shrink significantly in size. This smaller bulb will require special care to recover and grow large enough again to produce a new flower stalk next year.
Once the wax is removed, inspect the bulb carefully for sunken, soft, or dark areas that indicate a disease problem. Discard any bulb that shows signs of rot. Pot up the bulb in the same way you would for a regular non-waxed bulb. Use well-drained potting soil in a container 1 to 2 inches larger than the diameter of the bulb. Position the bulb in the center and when finished the upper half of the bulb should be above the soil line. Care for the bulb in the same way you would for a non-waxed bulb. It is particularly important to provide adequate light and fertilization in the spring and summer months to promote growth and allow the plant to produce and store carbohydrates in the bulb. After the bulb goes through dormancy in the fall, a new flower stalk should emerge and bloom.
It is not always possible to save waxed amaryllis bulbs and get them to rebloom. Occasionally the bulb is so spent after flowering that it does not recover. Sometimes the bulb grows healthy leaves but will not produce blooms the following year. This is usually because the bulb has not built up enough carbohydrate reserves to flower. Continue to grow and care for the bulb and flowers should emerge the following season.
Over time some amaryllis plants form side bulbs. This will be evident when a new cluster or fan of leaves emerges from a spot alongside the primary bulb. These small side bulbs can be separated and used to propagate new plants that will have the same flower color and pattern as the parent plant.
The best time to separate these bulbs is during their dormancy phase in late summer/fall. Once the plants go dormant (leaves die back), lift everything out of the pot. The secondary bulb(s) will be attached at the base of the primary one. Using your hands, gently pull the smaller secondary bulbs apart from the main bulb. Discard any diseased, soft, or pest-damaged bulbs, keeping only those that feel firm and look healthy. Replant each bulb in their own pot and continue on with your normal annual care. The smaller bulbs should be potted in smaller containers only 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb. Once bulbs reach mature size, they will flower.
Propagation by Chipping
Not all amaryllis cultivars will readily produce side bulbs. For these varieties, another propagation method, such as chipping, must be used. The process of chipping divides the bulb into smaller pieces with each piece containing a portion of the basal plate (the flat base of the bulb where the roots emerge). This induces each piece (or chip) of the bulb to form a new bulblet that can be potted up and grown into a full-size flowering bulb with the same flower color and pattern as the parent plant.
To propagate by chipping start with a healthy dormant bulb. Peel off the papery outer layer of the bulb and trim back any roots. Cut off the nose or tip of the bulb which should leave behind a roughly round bulb (instead of the normal more pear-shaped bulb). Turn the bulb over and rest it on the flat area created after cutting off the nose. Using a sharp knife, cut it into several sections by cutting down through the basal plate of the bulb. A large amaryllis bulb can typically be cut into 8 to 12 sections. Each section should be equal in size and have a portion of the basal plate attached. Let the bulb chips dry slightly for 12 hours to reduce the likelihood of rot. Dipping the pieces into a fungicide solution is also highly beneficial to preventing rot later on in the process.
Fill a container with moist vermiculite (perlite or peat moss can also be used) making sure the media is not overly wet. A mixture of 1 part water to 10 parts vermiculite works well. Place each piece in the moist vermiculite with the basal plate down. Place the entire pot in a plastic bag, fill it with air, and seal it shut. Store the container in a warm (65° to 70°F) location for 12 weeks. Check the container regularly and discard any rotting pieces. During storage, the layers of the bulb will separate apart and new bulblets will form in between just above the basal plate. Once the bulblets form, plant each in a small 3-inch container in a well-draining potting mix with the bulb about 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the soil surface but the original bulb layers or scales still exposed. Over time the original bulb piece will rot away leaving behind a small bulb. Continue with normal annual care. It will take several years, depending on growing conditions, to get the bulb to mature flowering size.
- What types of amaryllis are available for forcing indoors?
- How do I pot up an amaryllis bulb?
- When should I plant an amaryllis bulb in order to have it in bloom at Christmas?
- What should I do with my amaryllis after it is done blooming?
- When can I move my amaryllis outdoors?
- An amaryllis bulb saved from a previous year produces leaves, but doesn’t bloom. Why?
- When should I repot my amaryllis?
- How do I care for a waxed amaryllis bulb?
- Are there any bulbs that don't need a cold period when forcing them indoors?