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How to Grow Amaryllis Bulbs

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The Amaryllis flower.

The Amaryllis flower.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) is a popular bulb flower for growing indoors during the cold months of the year. It produces large, showy blooms with rich and vibrant colors. It's also one of the easiest flowering bulbs to force into bloom.

Each winter, my husband grows a couple of Amaryllis plants from bulbs, resulting in a colorful indoor flower display that easily offsets the outside winter whites, grays, and browns. He knows how to care for the plants and bulbs during and after growth so that they will grow again the following year.

Because of the ease in growing Amaryllis bulbs indoors, combined with its spectacular blooms, it makes a great gift during the holiday season and the colder months of the year. These plants with their beautiful blooms will brighten most anyone's day!

What Is an Amaryllis?

The Amaryllis plant that we're familiar with for growing and displaying around the holidays belongs to the genus Hippeastrum, and not the Amaryllis genus, even though both are in the Amaryllidaceae family. The true Amaryllis has similar-shaped flowers, but can't be "forced" to bloom in the winter like Hippeastrum. For the sake of simplicity, throughout the rest of this page, I'll be using the common name Amaryllis to refer to these Hippeastrums.

The Hippeastrum Amaryllis is native to the tropics and subtropics in South America and Central America, and many of its hybrids are grown in garden beds and borders in warmer climates. They won't survive year-round in colder climates, but do well as indoor houseplants, especially for the purpose of forcing the bulbs into bloom.

Typically, on a fully grown Amaryllis, there'll be two to seven large, lily-shaped blossoms about 6" across, on thick stems up to 20" tall. The leaves are dark green, and up to 20" long, growing from the bulb in a rosette. Even when the flowers are done blooming, the leaves are visually pleasing in their own right. Blooms come in a number of vibrant colors: red is very popular around Christmas, but there are also pink, white, salmon, orange, and bi-color blooms. Different hybrids will also have different shapes, sizes, and patterns.

Newly potted Amaryllis bulb.

Newly potted Amaryllis bulb.

Choosing and Planting Your Amaryllis Bulb

You can buy Amaryllis bulbs from most garden centers, usually from around September to January. They can be bought individually, and planted in your choice of container, or they can be bought as kits, with the bulb already planted in a small pot. If you buy individual bulbs from your local garden center, pick bulbs that are firm to the touch, and avoid choosing bulbs that have already started to sprout.

Larger bulbs tend to grow more stalks and flowers than smaller bulbs, but you do pay more for the larger ones. The bulb pictured here is a larger one, about 36cm in circumference, bought from our local home and garden store. It will most likely grow two bloom stalks.

Plant your bulb, pointed end up, in a deep container with 1–1.5" of space around the bulb. Make sure your container has good drainage, and that your potting medium is sterile and well-drained. Poor drainage will cause the bulb to rot.

Don't bury the bulb, but rather leave about 1/3 of the bulb above the soil level. Then water well around the bulb, but not on it (again, that can cause the bulb to rot). Watering with room temperature water is better than cold water—probably it promotes growth a bit more quickly. Place in a well-lit area that's at least 60°F. It will grow more quickly at 70–75°F, but many of us do keep our houses cooler than that during the winter!

Don't water again until the flower stem starts to come up. My husband has experienced that watering before growth starts makes it more likely that leaves will come up first, and the flower stem will come up much later, or not at all. It's still a pretty plant with just the leaves, but you're growing this for the stem and flowers!

Caring for Your Amaryllis as It Grows

Once the flower stem starts to grow, keep the soil medium moist—not too soggy. Water every six to nine days, or when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Again, make sure not to water the "nose" of the bulb.

  • Feed your Amaryllis plant every two weeks with a good liquid plant food, or once with a slow-release granular plant food.
  • The stem will grow toward the light, so turn the pot every day to ensure even growth of the stem. As you see from this photo, you may need to stake up a heavier plant.
  • Once your plant starts to flower, place in a cooler area and out of direct sunlight to keep the flowers blooming for longer.
  • As each flower fades, carefully trim it off, and when the stem starts to wither, carefully cut that as well.

Continue to water and feed your plant while the leaves are still growing. If you'd like to save the bulb to re-grow it, place the leaves back in a sunny area to store more energy for future grow. Trim the leaves off when they turn yellow, and let the bulb dry out to go dormant.

Regrowing Your Amaryllis Bulb

You may prefer to just discard your bulb after it's done growing. But you can also re-grow it if you follow a few simple instructions. If you plan to save your bulb for regrowing, once the flowers have died back but the leaves are still growing, place the plant back in a sunny spot so the leaves can store more energy for later re-growth.

After the leaves have died back, and you've trimmed them off, remove the Amaryllis from its pot and let it dry out and go dormant for at least six to eight weeks. Store it in a cool, dry place, ideally 50–60°F. Anytime after that, you can re-pot it and start again with the growing process. Start about eight weeks before you want it to bloom. If you have a few bulbs, you can stagger their growth, and enjoy beautiful Amaryllis blooms throughout the winter!

Re-grow your amaryllis.

Re-grow your amaryllis.

Amaryllis Kits and Bulbs

Amaryllis kits are almost foolproof to grow. Water them to start their growth, and follow any other instructions that come with the kit to ensure beautiful blooms! Amaryllis bulbs are also easy to grow if you follow the guidelines earlier on this page.

These kits and bulbs are usually not sold during the summer. You can find them at local garden stores and also online.

Amaryllis Resources

I'd Love to Hear From You!

Dayna on May 16, 2019:

I have dozens that I started from seed. I pot them in March for spring blooms then place the pots in a sunny spot. I let them grow all summer and pull them in and let them go dormant in the fall.

This year I had more than a dozen blooming at once. Stunning.

Karen (author) from U.S. on April 18, 2013:

@KarenHC: Oops, I didn't see this in context with the earlier comment / question! I'm not really sure what's going on if the plant doesn't go dormant, but my sense is that if it's so active even when you're trying to get it to go dormant, then cutting off the leaves even if they're green won't hurt the bulb too much. I'm not 100% sure of this though. Usually our amaryllis leaves do start to turn yellow, or at least a little less green, by the time we cut them off.

Karen (author) from U.S. on April 18, 2013:

@anonymous: Hi Kit, We trim the leaves off once they've started to turn yellow, since by then they've done all the work they need to do (they're no longer storing energy to be transferred back to the bulb). We trim them with scissors less then an inch from the bulb. I think the same would apply for spring bulbs too. Or at least we trim our daffodils when the leaves start to get a little yellow, although that takes awhile!

anonymous on April 18, 2013:

@KarenHC: So close! Like my Gran's recipés; missing a detail. "Accidentally", of course. "Remove the leaves..." ?? Ackk. How? How much? Furthermore, isn't it precisely the energy/resource developed by/in the leaves, what needs to be transferred back into the bulb? Same process as for outdoor & spring bulbs? Yet, mine too; refuse to "die back".

Karen (author) from U.S. on January 27, 2013:

@anonymous: Hi Marie! One tip is that if the plant doesn't go dormant, then remove the leaves and re-pot it. Otherwise this is what my husband does: he stops feeding the amaryllis in August, and then stops watering it in September and puts it in the basement in a dry, dark, cool spot. After a couple months he brings it up again, waters once (not over-watering), and waits until the flower shoot starts. If the bulb is over-watered, it will grow leaves instead. Sometimes the flower stalk will grow later too, after he stops watering for awhile.

Here's another great overview of how to grow amaryllis bulbs that includes tips for: 1. starting with a new amaryllis bulb, or 2. forcing an existing plant to bloom for the holidays, or 3. letting the plant bloom naturally. http://gardening.about.com/od/floweringbulbs/a/Ama...

anonymous on January 25, 2013:

I cannot seem to get my Amarylis to go dormant. I stop watering it entirely and leave it in a sunny window but the leaves never stop coming on. So, then I put them in a black pot with a cover on it so they get no light and keep them in a cool shop. When I check on them a month or so later they are still growing new green leaves. After 8 weeks I bring them back into the house and start watering them. They then produce lots of healthy green leaves and nothing else. What do I need to do?

GardenIdeasHub LM on December 25, 2012:

Your tips about growing amaryllis bulbs are really great! Thanks!

Karen (author) from U.S. on November 11, 2012:

@anonymous: Thanks, Tipi, for stopping by again :-) Always appreciated. Also your comment reminds me I need to bring up our amaryllis bulbs for the season! My husband keeps them from year to year and does a great job in getting them to bloom again.

anonymous on November 10, 2012:

Just stopped by again. Am hoping my Amaryllis will be blooming for Christmas. Thanks once again for the tips my dear. :)

malena10 on June 21, 2012:

I love amaryllis, I have red and white one :)

JJNW from USA on April 10, 2012:

I've always wanted to do this. Such lovely flowers!

anonymous on February 12, 2012:

@KarenHC: Thanks for the info, Kajohu.

Karen (author) from U.S. on February 12, 2012:

@anonymous: Hi Jen,

The artist is Jim "Kimo" West, and the music is "Aloha Uncle Lawrence". If you click on the little YouTube logo on the bottom right of the video, it will take you to the same video on YouTube, which also gives the music information. It really is lovely music, isn't it!

anonymous on February 12, 2012:

I just LOVE the music that accompanies the time-lapse film of the amaryllis. Does anyone know the title and who is playing it?

Karen (author) from U.S. on January 23, 2012:

@anonymous: It's great that you're growing an amaryllis for the first time! To keep the flower lasting longer, you could place it in a cooler area perhaps. I don't know of an easier way to get it growing again, but if you follow these instructions it will grow again. Or you might decide to discard it when it's done growing this year, and get a new one for next year. That's probably the easiest way :-) Good luck!

anonymous on January 23, 2012:

i have a amaryllis, it is great, but the flower dies to soon, but another is blooming now,this is my first time taking care of one and i am scared that i can't get it growing again is there an easier way to take care of it.

FarmerTom on August 20, 2011:

Thanks for the excellent advice! Great lens.

anonymous on March 20, 2011:

These are beautiful! I would love to try them. Favorited for future reference and guidance!

ElizabethJeanAl on March 08, 2011:

I start several amaryllis in the house before Christmas. Once they've bloomed and spring has arrived, I plant them in my garden. They bloom for me every spring. I love them.

Lensrolled to Christmas Plants and Flowers.

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on February 02, 2011:

Excellent information. We got an Amaryllis kit for Christmas, and it's in flower right now. It would be nice to keep this for next year.

Craftybegonia on January 29, 2011:

Beautiful!

wilhb81 lm on December 02, 2010:

Hmm, it looks like that I've used the wrong method to grow my amaryllis bulbs in the past. No wonder, I was always failed to grow it up lol Thank you very much for sharing all these amazing tips with us. :)

anonymous on December 02, 2010:

Really fun lens! I grew an amaryllis for years, such a beautiful flower. Great idea!

Ann from Yorkshire, England on December 02, 2010:

these are great fun to watch growing and make wonderful gifts - great lens

ohcaroline on December 02, 2010:

I have grown amaryllis before and really enjoyed them. Actually I like all kinds of bulbs. It's hard to pass them up in the garden departments. Great lens on their care.

darciefrench lm on December 02, 2010:

What a lovely flower! Beautiful lens.