How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Amaryllis

The amaryllis is starting to rival the poinsettia as the winter holiday flower of choice. It's also making appearances in bridal bouquets.

And it's no wonder. Amaryllis is a beautiful bulb plant that produces large bell-shaped flowers from a long, leafless stem. While red is the most popular choice, amaryllis can bloom in pink, orange, yellow, white, and green, with flowers as large as 23 cm in diameter!,

Amaryllises, whose name comes from the Greek word for "to sparkle," are easy to grow indoors. You can purchase bare bulbs online and in garden stores or buy a kit that contains everything you need to grow amaryllis indoors.

Many people treat their amaryllis bulbs as "one-and-done" flowers. In truth, these bulbs get better with time. The bulbs get bigger, producing more flower stems. In this article, we'll show you how to take care of your amaryllises year-round.

First, a Few Tips For Buying Amaryllis Bulbs

The key to success is in the bulbs. You'll get the best—and the most—blooms from larger bulbs, which can be as large as 36 cm. However, if you opt for a miniature variety, a big bulb would be closer to 28 cm.

Inspect each bulb before you buy, and leave the damaged ones at the store. It's ok if leaves or buds are already growing from the bulbs. The most important thing is to make sure the bulbs are dry, firm, and free of mold and spots.

Once you're back at home, store the bulbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight until you're ready to plant them.

Next, Find the Right Container for Growing Amaryllis

For top-tier blooms, choose a narrow container that's only 2-3 cm wider than the bulb and at least twice as tall. Amaryllis bulbs like to be cozy. If the container is too wide, it may not produce any flowers.

If you are planting the bulbs in soil, you can use a container made of plastic, ceramic, metal, or terracotta. Make sure there is at least one drainage hole at the bottom. Proper drainage will prevent root rot.

You can also grow amaryllis using stones instead of soil. If you go this route, use a glass container. We'll explain more about that later.

How to Plant Amaryllis Bulbs in Soil

Amaryllises prefer warm weather. Canadians usually keep them as houseplants, but some people move them outdoors so they can soak up the warmest weeks of summer.

Follow these steps to plant amaryllis bulbs in a container with soil:

  • Take a look at the bulbs and cut off any dry or brown roots so only healthy roots remain.
  • Soak the roots in water for a few hours before planting.

Make sure your container is clean, then add a layer of well-draining potting soil, such as Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Garden Soil.

  • Next, place the bulb root side down into the soil, leaving the top third exposed. This gives the roots more room to grow. Water the soil until moist, then place your amaryllis in a sunny spot.
  • Avoid overwatering, which will ruin your bulb. Only water your plant when the top 7 cm of soil is dry.
  • Pretty amaryllis blooms should appear in 8 – 10 weeks. If you plant large bulbs, you may get two or three flowering stalks that bloom over several weeks.

How to Plant Amaryllis Without Soil

Colourful blooms bursting from elegant glass containers add a touch of style to your holiday decorations. They make great gifts, too. Best of all, you can produce these pretty flowers without getting your hands dirty. Follow these steps to grow amaryllis in a stone-filled container:

  • Cut dry or brown roots off the bulbs, then soak the roots in water for several hours.
  • Take a clean glass container and add stones, pebbles, or marbles until it's two-thirds full.
  • Next, add the bulb with its roots facing down and secure it using a few more stones.
  • Pour water into the container until it reaches the roots and base of the bulb.
  • Move the container to a sunny, warm place.
  • Water when needed, but only enough to cover the bottom of the bulb.

This no-soil method will produce flowers for one season, but that doesn't mean you need to dispose of the amaryllis. Simply move the bulb to a container filled with well-draining soil. Follow the instructions in the previous section to maintain a healthy plant that blooms for many years to come.

Tips for Growing Amaryllis Indoors

Keep your amaryllises warm in the winter, by moving them away from drafty doors and windows as well as radiators and forced air heating vents. These plants prefer temperatures between 15.5 and 21°C.

To speed up the blooming process, add a fertilizer made for indoor plants, such as Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Fertilizer.

Once the stem appears, turn the pot every few days to prevent it from leaning in one direction. If it leans anyway, add a stake next to the stem. Then, when the flowers bloom, make them last longer by moving the container to a cool location with diffused lighting.

After your amaryllis fades, simply cut off the stem near the neck of the bulb. Be careful not to injure the leaves or any emerging flower stalks. Amaryllis leaves replenish the bulb so it can bloom again next year.

Water enough to keep the soil moist, and feed it every 7-14 days. Keep your amaryllis in the sunniest spot of your house so photosynthesis will continue, building up energy for bigger blooms in the future.

How to Grow Amaryllis Outdoors in the Summer

Most Canadian climates are too cold to grow these plants successfully outdoors. Still, you can move your indoor plants to the garden for the summer once the temperatures stay above 10 °C at night.

Amaryllises love sunlight, so place them in a sunny spot. Use well-draining soil—such as a mix of sandy soil and compost—to prevent root rot. And, just as you do for indoor planting, leave the top third of the bulb above the soil.

Want to make it even easier? Some gardeners keep the amaryllis in its indoor container and place the entire thing into the soil.

Feed and water the plant regularly. It's storing up energy now to produce more flowers later. Healthy, well-fed bulbs translate to more flower stems and more blooms per stem.

Be sure to bring your amaryllis back indoors in late summer before the first frost.

Timing Amaryllis Blooms for the Holidays

Your amaryllis can continue growing indoors throughout the year. But if you want big, colourful blooms for Christmas, New Year's, or other winter holidays, let it go dormant for a few weeks to save up energy. Here's how:

In late summer, bring the plants back inside and place them in a sunny spot. Stop watering and feeding them so they go dormant. When the leaves turn yellow, cut them off and relocate the plant to a cool, dark room with temperatures between 12-15 °C.

The amaryllis bulb needs at least 8-10 weeks of rest. During the dormant period, check it occasionally for mold or mildew. If you find any, treat it with a fungicide.

After the rest period, move your bulbs to a warm, sunny spot. This is also an excellent time to repot them, which you should do every 3 or 4 years. Otherwise, replace the top 2 inches of soil with fresh soil and water thoroughly. Your amaryllis should bloom in 8 – 10 weeks.

So if you want your amaryllis to bloom for Christmas, start its rest period in early September and move it to a warm, sunny spot in late October.

Are Pests And Diseases a Threat To Amaryllis?

Indoor gardeners usually don't need to worry about pests damaging their amaryllis plants. However, there are occasional problems with bulbs that were infested at the greenhouse or moved outside for the summer.

The typical culprit is the narcissus bulb fly, which lays eggs inside the bulb that grow into larvae that eat the bulb. When this happens, the only solution is to dispose of the bulb.

Overwatering is the biggest threat to amaryllises, but red blotch disease can also cause damage. This fungal disease leads to odd-shaped leaves and plants, but it can be cured by applying a fungicide

To avoid pests and diseases in your amaryllises, always inspect the bulbs before you buy them, plant them in clean containers, and use fresh potting soil.

Is Amaryllis Toxic to Pets?

Yes, each part of this plant is poisonous, and it can be dangerous when consumed in large quantities. If you have amaryllis plants around your home, make sure they're out of reach of curious cats, dogs, and iguanas.