Amaryllis Flowers Are Big, Breathtaking, and Wildly Easy to Grow
While you might see already-planted amaryllis flowers in grocery stores, flower shops, and nurseries, you’re more likely to find these flowers as dormant bulbs that you can grow indoors. If you’re a beginner plant parent, the idea of growing a full plant from scratch might sound intimidating, but don’t let that discourage you. As long as you follow a few simple rules, your amaryllis bulb will be easy to please — and will, within weeks, grow into a dramatic plant with giant, colorful blooms. And when the flowers are done? Well, this plant can be readily coaxed into regrowing again next year.
Ready to give this holiday classic houseplant a try? Read on for more information about growing and caring for amaryllis, as told by houseplant experts.
- What Is an Amaryllis?
- What Should You Look for When Buying an Amaryllis?
- How to Plant Amaryllis Bulbs
- What kind of soil does an amaryllis need?
- How Often Should You Water Amaryllis Flowers?
- What Kind of Light Does an Amaryllis Need?
- What kind of fertilizer does an amaryllis need?
- How should you prune your amaryllis?
- What Are Common Amaryllis Problems?
- How to Get Amaryllis Bulbs to Regrow
- Creative Ideas for Planting and Displaying Amaryllis Flowers
What Is an Amaryllis?
According to Zahid Adnan, founder of The Plant Bible, amaryllis flowers originate from South America in tropical and subtropical areas like Argentina and Brazil. “Known for their stunning flowers, these bulbous plants have become popular globally for their vibrant blooms and ease of cultivation,” he says.
Amaryllis bulbs and plants are typically widely available in home centers, nurseries, grocery stores, and more during the holiday season (November through December). You may also find them in early spring.
The amaryllis flower’s name also has historical roots. According to Greek mythology, the maiden Amaryllis fell in love with a shepherd and pierced her heart to win his love. The spilling blood produced flowers that were as beautiful as she was; when the amaryllis flower was named in 1837, its moniker paid homage to this mythological tale.
True to its name, the amaryllis plant is indeed stunning. Its stately stems produce starlike flower heads resembling a lily, but they are not closely related. Although the most popular amaryllis colors are red and white, other colors, like pink and orange, are also available.
If you have pets, take note: Amaryllis is toxic to dogs and cats.
What Should You Look for When Buying an Amaryllis?
Don’t be startled if you head into your local nursery and only find flowerless amaryllis plants or your online order looks less than aesthetic. Because it’s a bulb, the blooms can take a while to grow and bloom.
Kate Russell, the pro behind The Daily Garden, says not to be frightened when your amaryllis arrives looking like a pot of dirt with a stalk sticking out. “These South American tropical bulbs are very forgiving and long-lived,” she says. “And the magnificent bulbs are worth the wait.”
Although the amaryllis often arrives in a kit, Lucie Bradley, a plant expert at Two Wests and Elliott, encourages readers to purchase any bulbs individually and inspect them thoroughly. “You want to make sure the bulb is firm and dry, with no signs of injury, decay, or mold,” she says.
Bradley also suggests choosing large bulbs, as the size of the bulb often indicates how many flowers an amaryllis will produce.
How to Plant Amaryllis Bulbs
Amaryllis bulbs can grow two ways: potted in soil or in water. (Some stores also sell amaryllis bulbs that are coated in wax, which can grow directly within their wrapping with no further care aside from placing them in bright indirect light.)
Below, find instructions for both potting methods.
How to Plant an Amaryllis Bulb in Soil
If you’re planting an amaryllis bulb in soil, the first thing you’ll need is a pot suitable for your amaryllis.
Garden designer Jarema Osofsky recommends choosing a planter approximately an inch wider and twice as tall as your bulb. This spacing will allow the roots to grow sufficiently.
Gardener’s Supply Co also suggests using a pot heavy enough to keep from toppling under the weight of multiple blooms.
In addition to your vessel, you’ll also need a well-draining soil mixture and a healthy amaryllis bulb.
- Fill your pot most of the way with your soil mixture.
- Place the amaryllis bulb with the pointed side up, leaving the top third of the bulb exposed and out of the soil.
- Put the pot in a space with bright, indirect light.
- As your amaryllis grows, water sparingly and only when the top 1/2 inch of soil is dry.
- Once you see 2 inches of growth from the bulb, start to water the soil whenever the top feels dry.
- Occasionally rotate the pot to encourage straight stem growth.
- You will begin seeing amaryllis blooms in six to eight weeks. Each flower lasts about two to three weeks.
How to Grow an Amaryllis Bulb in Water
If you’d prefer to grow your amaryllis bulb in water, you’ll need a glass hurricane to plant it in. Make sure to choose one that is sturdy enough that it won’t tip over when the plant is fully grown.
The glass hurricane should be at least one inch wider than your amaryllis bulb and at least twice as tall.
While the roots of your amaryllis will need to reach the water in the hurricane or vase, it’s important that your bulb stays dry. To keep the bulb lifted out of direct contact with water, you’ll need small pebbles or glass marbles.
Finally, you’ll need, of course, a healthy amaryllis bulb and water.
- Fill the bottom 3 inches of the container with pebbles or marbles.
- Inspect the bulb’s bottom (that’s the flat part). Trim away any brown roots to prevent decay.
- Place the bulb, pointed side up, on top of the pebbles.
- Gently press the bulb down.
- Add more rocks to cover half of the bulb, leaving the top half of the bulb exposed.
- Fill the container with water so that the level is just under — but not touching — the bulb.
- Place the pot on a sunny windowsill and maintain the same water level, never allowing the bulb to sit in water.
What kind of soil does an amaryllis need?
The soil type depends on how you want to present your amaryllis plant. If you’re going to expose the bulb, choose a transparent container, put a layer of stones or pebbles at the bottom, and place your bulb on top.
If you decide to house your bulb into a pot, Adnan says that amaryllis prefers well-draining soil so it can breathe and not get moldy.
Amaryllis can also be grown without soil at all. If you grow your bulbs hydroponically — meaning only in water — you’ll need to take some precautions to make sure the bulb doesn’t rot.
How Often Should You Water Amaryllis Flowers?
Adnan also suggests moderately watering your amaryllis bulb once it’s been planted. “Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, especially during the dormant period,” he recommends. He advises that overwatering can lead to bulb rot, so giving the plant water while not overhydrating it is essential.
Osofsky also stresses that you should never let water stagnate at the bottom of your vessel. “It’s important to allow the water to drain out and avoid any water sitting at the bottom of the planter because this can cause root rot,” she says. A drainage hole is necessary for a potted amaryllis.
When you water your amaryllis, make sure to pour water into the soil and not directly onto the bulb. This will help keep the bulb from getting oversaturated.
What Kind of Light Does an Amaryllis Need?
According to Osofsky, amaryllis enjoys bright, indirect light. She recommends placing them in a spot with gentle morning rays rather than harsh afternoon sun.
Russell adds that temperature is also a factor with a tropical plant like amaryllis, so put your plant in an area away from winter drafts. Aim for a spot that will maintain a temperature between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
What kind of fertilizer does an amaryllis need?
Amaryllis plants don’t require a lot of extra nutrients, although Adnan suggests using a well-balanced fertilizer while the bulb is growing and flowering.
Once the plant goes dormant — after the flowers are spent and the leaves shrivel — there’s no need to continue using fertilizer.
How should you prune your amaryllis?
Robert Silver, the editor of Pro Gardening Blog, says that removing spent parts is suitable for your plants and can help them look healthier. He suggests pruning any leaves that die or start to yellow.
“This not only contributes to the plant’s visual appeal, but also acts as a preventive measure against potential diseases,” Silver says. Removing any decaying foliage provides a cleaner environment for your plants and limits the rest of the plant’s exposure to fungus and disease.
What Are Common Amaryllis Problems?
Soggy soil can lead to mold and root rot; both conditions can also lead to unwanted pests.
“Fungus gnats can be a problem, so I’d recommend planting your bulb in a terracotta planter to help the soil dry out,” advises Osofsky.
She adds that mealybugs are another possible nuisance. If you spot any, wipe them off with a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol.
How to Get Amaryllis Bulbs to Regrow
Because amaryllis grows from a bulb, annual care differs slightly from traditional houseplants. Here are Osofsky’s recommendations on how to get your amaryllis to rebloom.
- Once the flower has faded, cut the flower stalk down to one inch to the top of the bulb.
- Keep the bulb in the soil, and store the whole pot in a cool, dark place, such as a garage or mud room, for eight weeks minimum.
- Six to eight weeks before you want your bulb to bloom again, plant it in fresh soil and place it in indirect, bright light.
- Water intermittently until new growth emerges, then resume watering regularly.
Creative Ideas for Planting and Displaying Amaryllis Flowers
While planning your amaryllis planting, use your creativity and incorporate some of Osofsky’s suggestions into your arrangement.
- Plant several bulbs together in a wide container for a showy display of blooms to use as a dining centerpiece or in an entryway.
- Plant a variety of different bulbs in separate planters, so you have a succession of blooms through the winter months.
- Showcase your amaryllis flower as a cut flower arrangement. Once your flower is grown, you can cut it and put it in a vase with water for a stunning display.