How to Grow Amaryllis Bulbs
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.
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!
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 plants, How to Grow and Care for Blooming Amaryllis Bulbs
How to grow and care for Amaryllis plants and force Amaryllis bulbs to bloom again, with guides for light and watering requirements, growing tips and photos
- Growing Amaryllis - White Flower Farm
Growing Amaryllis. How to plant, grow, and enjoy Amaryllis Bulbs. A Complete Guide to Growing Amaryllis Bulbs from White Flower Farm.
- Floridata: Hippeastrum hybrids
The spectacular "amaryllis" bulbs that are forced into bloom by the thousands every year are actually hybrids of the dozens of species of the genus Hippeastrum .