Many people grow amaryllis bulbs to have plants blooming indoors in winter, though the bulbs can bloom at other times of year. Amaryllis flowers are generally hybrids from various species in the Hippeastrum genus, a group of tropical plants from Central and South America. There is also a true Amaryllis genus containing just two species native to South Africa. These are not, however, the amaryllis plants commonly cultivated in the U.S.
Amaryllis plants have strappy leaves and huge flowers shaped like trumpet lilies. The blooms are typically a deep red, pink, white, or blend of these colors. You can expect your amaryllis to bloom for seven weeks or longer. Amaryllis has components in the bulbs, leaves, and stems that are toxic to people and pets.
|Botanical Name||Hippeastrum (group)|
|Plant Type||Perennial, bulb|
|Mature Size||1–2 ft. tall, 9–12 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower Color||Red, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||8–10 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central America, South America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people, toxic to pets|
The way you care for amaryllis can vary, depending on whether you're growing it indoors or outdoors and when you want it to bloom.
Caring for Amaryllis Indoors in Spring and Summer
To bring your amaryllis care indoors, partially fill a five- to seven-inch pot with a quality, well-draining sandy loam potting mix. Then, plant the amaryllis bulb so the top third is exposed when you fill in the rest of the pot with potting mix. The bulbs should be planted 10 to 12 weeks before you want them to bloom.
Place a bamboo stake alongside the bulb. The flowers can get top-heavy, and inserting the stake at the time of planting will help you avoid damaging the bulb and roots later.
Grown as a potted plant indoors, amaryllis prefers direct morning sun but bright indirect light in the afternoon. Keep the soil moist but not wet. A thick flower stalk should shoot up within a few weeks after planting. The flat leaves will follow as the flower stalk matures. Turn the pot every few days, so the flower stalk receives uniform sunlight exposure on all sides and grows straight.
Caring for Amarillis Indoors in Fall and Winter
Many people purchase amaryllis bulbs and pot them in the fall so they can be in bloom over the winter holidays. If you're doing that, simply follow the setup steps used for spring planting. But if you're engaging in amaryllis care year-round, you can take some specific amaryllis care steps after flowering to encourage those winter blooms again.
After your amaryllis has bloomed, cut back the flower stalk but allow the foliage to continue growing. You can place your plant outdoors in summer in partial shade if you like. Water your amaryllis whenever the top two inches of soil becomes dry. And, feed it with a half-strength water-soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks.
Stop feeding in August, and bring the plant indoors. Its foliage will be depreciating, but the plant should never be exposed to frost. Cut back any fully depreciated amaryllis leaves. At this point, it's time to expose your amaryllis to dark conditions. Move it to a cool (55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit), dry indoor spot that doesn't receive any light. Also, stop watering it either at this point or 10 to 12 weeks prior to when you want it to bloom (if you're targeting a winter holiday).
The lack of foliage and water will induce the amaryllis to send out another flower stalk. Resume watering at this time, and move the plant to a warm, sunny indoor spot. Leaves will appear, and blooms will soon follow. After flowering, withhold feeding for eight to ten weeks to induce the dormancy needed to reset the bulbs.
Caring for Amaryllis Outdoors
In USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10, amaryllis can be grown outdoors. You can grow the bulbs in well-drained, fertile soil, planting them whenever the soil temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Amaryllis is a tropical plant, so it prefers warm temperatures. It will grow in full sun to part shade conditions, but bright shade is the best environment outdoors.
If your area is entirely frost-free, plant the bulbs with their necks at or slightly above ground level. In areas where frost is possible, plant the bulbs with five to six inches of soil above them, followed by five to six inches of mulch. Water thoroughly after planting, but then water only when the top two inches of soil is dry.
After leaves appear, feed with a balanced fertilizer once per month through blooming. When flowering is complete, remove the flower stalks but keep the foliage to continue growing. If any leaves turn yellow, cut them off.
In fall, apply a layer of winter mulch if your area experiences winter frost. The plants typically go dormant over winter.
Types of Amaryllis
There are dozens of different amaryllis varieties, and the choice really depends on the flower color that most appeals to you. Some recommended varieties include:
- 'Samba': This variety has large red ruffled blooms with white markings.
- 'Apple Blossom': This popular variety has blooms that has mixed pink and white with green throats.
- 'Faro': This plant has delicate flowers in pale salmon and white. The blooms are smaller and more delicate than most varieties.
- 'Summertime': This plant has large seven inch blooms in a unique watermelon pink to dark rose hue with greenish centers.
- 'Matterhorn': This is a good choice for a pure white amaryllis. The throats are yellow-green.
When the flowers fade, cut the flower stalk back to just above the bulb. Keep watering the plant until it goes dormant in the fall. You can move the amaryllis outdoors for the summer, placing it in a partial shade location.
Amaryllis bulbs will produce small side bulbs similar to the way daffodils multiply. You can carefully remove these bulbils and pot them to produce more plants once the parent plant has gone dormant and its blooms have died—typically late winter to early spring for outdoor plants and the fall for indoor plants. Give bulbils a few seasons of growth before expecting flowers. Here's how:
- Using a spade, carefully remove the entire plant from the flower bed or container.
- Remove soil from around the bulb and any roots.
- Twist the bulbils gently away from the parent bulb to separate. If it is not disconnecting easily, you can use a knife to split them apart. Make sure to keep any roots on the bulbils intact, and do not take any small bulbils from the parent bulb.
- Replant the parent bulb in the same spot in the garden bed or container.
- Plant the bulbils in prepared containers filled with rich potting soil, leaving about 1/3 of the top of the bulb visible above the soil. The container should allow a maximum of two inches from the bulb to the side of the container.
- Place the container indoors in a sunny location. Water to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Expect to see new growth in three to four weeks.
Amaryllis plants located in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10 can be left as-is for winter. But in zone 7, they can be overwintered in the garden by applying a heavy layer of mulch. In other zones, you should store amaryllis bulbs for next year by carefully removing the bulb from the garden bed and placing it in a cool, dry, dark spot.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Amaryllis also can be infected with what is known as red blotch and mosaic virus. Red blotch spreads rapidly from bulb to bulb and looks like reddish brown spots on the leaves, bulb, and scape. Any plants with the mosaic virus will show less blooming and growth, and the leaves will have a yellow streaking on them. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about either of these diseases.
How to Get Amaryllis to Bloom
If grown in a frost-free garden (USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10), amaryllis will naturally bloom in March, April, and May with a fall rebloom possible. But amaryllis bulbs are often purchased to grow as potted plants for holiday bloom, which is only possible if you plant the dormant bulbs at precisely the right time: about 10 to 12 weeks before desired bloom time. When you buy commercial bulbs from a grower for holiday bloom, these are dormant bulbs that should be kept in a cool, dark, dry spot until the right planting time.
If you already have potted amaryllis plants, reblooms can be controlled by setting the plant outdoors to grow through the summer and then bringing it indoors, forcing it into a short period of dormancy by withholding water and fertilizer for several weeks, and then restarting the bulbs.
If your amaryllis doesn't bloom, it is often because it received no rest period after the last bloom or because it is not receiving adequate light.
How do I get my amaryllis to rebloom?
To get your amaryllis to rebloom after it has already bloomed in the spring/summer, withhold watering and feeding starting in the late summer. Move the plant to a dark, cool, dry spot, and cut off the depreciated foliage. After eight to ten weeks, move it back to a warm spot with bright, indirect light, and water it well. Leaves will start to grow soon, followed by flowers.
How long can amaryllis live?
Amaryllis bulbs can live up to 25 years. And during that time, they will multiply, producing offshoots—also known as bulbils—and creating additional plants.
What is a common issue with growing amaryllis?
Overwatering or underwatering are two of the biggest issues when growing amaryllis. Overwatering can cause the bulb to rot, while underwatering will cause wilting leaves, eventually killing off the plant.
How many flowers are typically on an amaryllis?
An amaryllis can have up to three stalks sprout up from the bulb, depending on variety. Each stalk will produce anywhere from two to six flowers.