How to Care for a Potted Amaryllis So That It Blooms Again
Although "amaryllis" is the term people most commonly use, the correct name for this common houseplant is "hippeastrum." Hippeastrum species are native to South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The true amaryllis, such as Amaryllis belladonna—the belladonna lily, which also has a large bulb, has smaller flowers that come up after the leaves have died down. The bulbs most usually available to buy are hippeastrum hybrids that have been selected for the best qualities as houseplants. For the purposes of this article, I shall stick with using the term "amaryllis."
Most of us get an amaryllis in flower as a Christmas present or as a bulb at Christmas time, which then flowers a couple of months later. It can be tempting to throw them away then, especially if you’ve had a go at raising them a second year before and only been rewarded by leaves. Don’t bin them—you can succeed with amaryllis and have them flower for many years in succession.
How to Plant Amaryllis
Soil and Potting
Amaryllis bulbs don’t like to wallow in a lot of compost. Plant them in a pot that is no more than two inches wider and two inches deeper than the bulb. Plant the bulb so that the top is just above the soil. Moisten the soil with water, but don’t soak it.
You can use a type of compost called bulb fibre, which is produced specially for bulbs, but I have used ordinary compost as an alternative and that works, too.
Although the RHS Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers recommends a minimum temperature of 55 Fahrenheit (13 Celsius), I have found mine do okay in temperatures as low as 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).
For a really stunning and dramatic display, you could group 3 or 5 amaryllis bulbs into one pot.
Tips for Growing Amaryllis
Position your amaryllis on or near a north-facing windowsill. 10-20 degrees centigrade (50-68 Fahrenheit) is ideal.
How to Care for a Blooming Amaryllis
- The flower bud often appears before the leaves. Once you see the bud you can start being a little more generous with the water.
- When the leaves start to appear, you should add a liquid feed to the water, such as Miracle-Gro, once a week. This is an essential step if you want your amaryllis to flower again the next year. The bulb takes up the nutrients from the food, the leaves photosynthesise and any energy not needed for growing this year’s flower is stored in the bulb to make next year’s flower.
- When the flower stem has reached full height, move the amaryllis to its flowering position. It can have pride of place somewhere you will enjoy it most.
- For the relatively short time that the flower is out, it doesn’t matter if the amaryllis is kept well away from the light, so you can use it to brighten up a dull corner of a room.
- The flowers will last longer in a cooler room and if they are kept away from any radiators.
How to Care for a Wilting Amaryllis
- When the flower wilts, you can cut it off at the base of the stem.
- Move the amaryllis back to the north-facing windowsill.
- Continue adding a liquid feed to the water once a week until the leaves start to turn yellow. Then stop watering altogether for two months whilst the plant has a rest. You can move it away from the windowsill again if you want it out of the way, but I leave mine there.
After two months, start to water it sparingly again. All being well, you will soon have another flower from your amaryllis bulb. Don’t despair if it doesn’t flower the second time around; it just means the bulb didn’t store enough energy. Feed it regularly once the leaves show, and it will reward you with flowers the year after.
When Does Amaryllis Bloom?
The normal blooming time is March to early June. Even if you got your amaryllis as a Christmas gift, don’t expect it to naturally flower at Christmas again—growers specially prepare the bulbs to do that. Changing your watering and fertilizing schedule can make an amaryllis more likely to bloom at Christmas time.
It’s a slow process, but your amaryllis may produce one or more bulblets. You can separate these from the parent plant and grow them on individually or leave them together and pot the two of them into a slightly larger pot as I have. That way you can enjoy two or more amaryllis flower stems at once. It will take 2 or 3 years for the bulblet to be big enough to flower.
Differences Between Hippeastrum and True Amaryllis
Flowers appear after or at the same time as the leaves
Leaves appear first, then die down before the flower appears
Between December and June
Where to grow it
Only suitable as a houseplant (in the UK)
Can be grown outdoors in a sunny spot in UK climates
Flower colours available
Pink, white, red, orange, yellow. Some varieties have bi-coloured flowers.
Pink or white
Species originate from
South America, Mexico, Caribbean