How to Grow Amaryllis

Amaryllis flower

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Amaryllis are hard flowers to categorize. They look tropical and exotic, large, lily-like trumpet blooms on tall, straight stems, with a base of strappy leaves. Flower colors go from white to deep red and include some eye-catching striped varieties. You'll pay more for the more exotic varieties and larger bulbs, but larger bulbs produce more flowers. You can expect your Amaryllis to bloom for seven weeks or longer.

Most amaryllis will go dormant naturally and re-bloom sometime during winter. However, many people prefer to force their amaryllis into bloom for the holiday season. Many "prepared" bulbs are sold in the fall, ready to pot up and have in time for Christmas. Here are directions for forcing your Amaryllis for holiday display, as well as general care for your amaryllis plant.

What You’ll Need

  • Amaryllis bulb
  • A pot slightly larger than the bulb (1/2" to 2" around the sides of the bulb)
  • Well-draining potting mix
  • Bamboo stalk

Planting a New Bulb

  1. Choose a bulb(s) that’s plump and still has some roots at the base.
  2. Make sure the pot you chose is just large enough for the bulb. Generally, a 5" to 7" pot will work fine. The bulb needs to feel crowded to bloom.
  3. Partially fill the pot with potting mix and place the bulb so that the top third of it will be exposed when you fill in potting soil around the sides of the pot.
  4. Place a bamboo stalk alongside the bulb. The flowers can get top-heavy, and inserting the stake now will help you avoid damaging the bulb and roots later.
  5. Water well.
  6. Place the pot in bright, indirect light and keep the soil moist, but not wet.
  7. A thick flower stalk should shoot up within a few weeks. The flat leaves will follow as the flower stalk matures.
  8. Turn the pot every few days, so the flower stalk gets uniform exposure on all sides and grows straight.
  9. You can feed your Amaryllis with a half-strength water-soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks.
  10. 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 more or plant the Amaryllis outdoors for the summer, in partial shade.

Forcing Flowering for the Holidays

  1. To force bloom for the winter holidays, cut back the flower stalk after blooming stops, but allow the foliage to grow. You can place your plant outdoors for summer, if you like, in partial shade.
  2. Keep watered so the soil is moist, but not wet.
  3. Stop feeding in August.
  4. When it’s time to bring plants indoors, in September or October, move your Amaryllis to a cool (55 to 60 F), dry spot and stop watering it. The foliage will already be dying back. If you want your Amaryllis to bloom at a specific time, Thanksgiving or Christmas, count backward about 10 to 12 weeks, to determine when to stop watering and cross your fingers.
  5. 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 spot. Leaves will follow shortly and then blooms.
  6. When the flowers fade, start the process over.

Re-Bloom Naturally

  1. To allow your Amaryllis to re-bloom naturally, cut off the flower stalk after blooming ceases, but let the foliage continue to grow as long as it can. Keep it in bright light, indoors or out.
  2. Keep watered so the soil is moist, but not wet.
  3. Stop feeding it in August.
  4. Bring indoors before a frost hits it and place the pot in a cool spot in indirect, bright light.
  5. The leaves will start to yellow and drop around December. Keep watering as usual and new flower stalks should appear in a month or two. Resume feeding at this time and move the plant to a warm, sunny spot. Leaves will follow shortly and then blooms.
  6. When the flowers fade, start the process over. Allowing the plant to bloom naturally will result in larger plants and flowers.

General Care and Growing Tips

  • Whatever method you choose, resume feeding your Amaryllis after flowering.
  • As your Amaryllis bulb gets larger, you will need to increase the size of the pot. Just make sure it’s still a cozy fit.
  • Amaryllis bulbs will produce side bulbs, like daffodils. Carefully remove these bulbils and pot up for more plants. Give them a few seasons of growth before expecting flowers.
  • Some warmth is needed when forcing begins, but flowers will last longer if the plant is kept in a cool spot, once it blooms.
  • If your Amaryllis won’t go dormant, remove the remaining leaves and re-pot.
  • Keep on the lookout for spider mites and mealybugs.
  • The top reasons Amaryllis doesn't bloom are no rest period, insufficient light while actively growing, and poor nutrients in the soil.