Amaryllis are bold, beautiful, easy-to-care-for houseplants that can illuminate a winter windowsill like no other. These vibrant winter bloomers come in over 500 varieties of varying hues, with red and white being the most popular standouts.
Derived from the Greek word that means “to sparkle,” amaryllis carries the symbolic meaning of determination, love, and beauty. Such descriptions are very fitting if you have ever traced an amaryllis bulb through its life cycle and reaped the reward of its bloom. This spectacular blooming bulb is considered an indoor plant for potting in most regions; however, it is a perennial planting in much of the Southern Hemisphere.
Amaryllis Bulbs have all that they need for growth and glorious blooms deep within their core. Bulbs go dormant and sleep for 6-8 weeks, and while sleeping, bulbs are working to form their buds internally. They are just waiting for awakening from a little bit of water and sunlight for their opportunity to shine. Each bulb produces a cluster of two to twelve exotic trumpet-like flowers atop lanky green shoots and separate spikes of leaves.
Key Factors to Consider When Planting
There are several components to ensuring the best growing environment for amaryllis bulbs. Soil composition, light, temperature, and care are all important considerations when planting.
Soil Composition and pH
The best way to plant amaryllis bulbs is to use soil that is high in organic matter. We suggest using a mix of soil that includes two-parts of loam soil to one-part perlite to one-part of well-decomposed compost. The ideal soil pH should measure between 6.0 and 6.8.
Light and Temperature Requirements
The amaryllis bulb will thrive best in a well-lit area that receives at least four hours of direct sunlight each day. When in its dormant state, keep the bulb in a cool, dark space of no less than 55 degrees.
Water the amaryllis bulb after initial planting to wake up the bulb. After that, water the plant no more than once a week. Most problems encountered with failing bulbs are due to overwatering, which can rot the bulb. You can tell if your bulb has rotted if it loses its firmness and gets mushy when you press on it.
After the amaryllis flowers bloom, cut the spent flowers off right below the small bulbous area behind the wilted flower. After all the removal of the wilted flowers, cut the stalk to within 2 inches of the base of the plant. After flowering, the plant’s leaves process energy through photosynthesis that transfers to the bulb. The amaryllis plant stores this energy in the bulb for the following growing season.
You can treat the leafy plant as a houseplant for several months. When the foliage starts to die back naturally, cut it back to 1-2 inches above the bulb. At the end of the summer season, dig up the bulb and store it in a cool, dry, dark place for a period of 6 to 8 weeks. Amaryllis bulbs will go dormant so that it won’t need any water or attention until sometime in September.
Best Ways to Plant Amaryllis Bulbs
There are two preferred ways to plant amaryllis bulbs. They can be planted traditionally in a pot with soil, and they can also thrive with water alone housed in a glass bowl. In both scenarios, you should start by trimming spent roots that are dangling from the base of the bulb. These are last year’s roots and are not necessary for this year’s bloom.
If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you may have some success in planting amaryllis bulbs in your garden space. Late September is the ideal time for growing Amaryllis bulbs in flower gardens. Maintain a spacing of about 12 inches between two bulbs for the proper development of each plant. However, the sun-loving amaryllis grows best indoors.
Instructions to Plant in a Pot with Soil
- Find a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom.
- Toss in some small garden stones or marbles to increase the drainage capabilities. This step keeps the bulb healthy and free from rot.
- Fill your pot about 1/3 of the way up.
- Place the bulb root-side down with the roots resting on the organic soil.
- Adjust the soil height by adding or removing soil so that the shoulder of the bulb is even with the top of the pot. The leaf spout of the bulb should be peeking above the pot.
- Fill in the rest of the pot with soil, gently pressing the soil around the bulb, leaving 1/3 of the bulb exposed. Do not bury the bulb or it will rot.
- If desired, you can add a little bit of moss loosely around the base of the bulb.
- Water lightly to initiate the waking up process.
Instructions to Plant in a Glass Bowl with Water
- Find a tapered glass bowl that will appropriately fit in the top tier of the bowl.
- Fill the bottom portion of the tapered bowl with water.
- Place the bulb into the top tier of the glass bowl so that the base of the bulb barely sits in the water. You do not want the bulb itself to be soaking in water, or else it will likely rot.
Keep the planted bulb in a cool location until the bulb shows signs of waking up, and you start to see the roots growing down into the water. The reason for this is that since there is no soil to anchor the bulb in place, it would be unbalanced if the shoot grew faster than the roots could keep up with, and the plant will get too top-heavy.
- Once you see the roots and a small shoot emerging from the top of the bulb, you can slowly introduce the amaryllis plant into a sunny space.
- Change the water if it gets cloudy and keep the water level where the roots are submerged.
Some Additional Helpful Tips
- As your amaryllis bulb sprouts, consider rotating the pot from time to time. Your plant will start to lean toward the sun and rotating the plant will help to balance the plant and avoid an unstable leaning plant
- As your bloom shoot gets taller, it can benefit from a support stake.
- Do not overwater your amaryllis. Overwatering will cause rot and loss of your plant.
- It is possible to remove side bulbs that emerge when the bulb enlarges over the years. They can be replanted in their pots or left to stay on their mother bulbs. It is important to note that these smaller bulb pieces take 3-6 years to develop into bloomers, so prepare to be patient.
- It is important to cut off spent flowers as they wilt away. If you do not do this, the flower will go to seed and expend excess nutrients away from the bulb.
It takes six to eight weeks for blooms to form on the amaryllis, but this timing depends on a few factors, including the type of amaryllis, temperature and amount of sunlight, and the amount of time that the bulb has been dormant. There is undoubtedly a high level of anticipation that surrounds the wait for this stunner to bloom, but it is well worth the patience. With proper planting and dormancy care, the amaryllis bulb will reward you by proliferating in size and blooms and will continue to produce for many years to come.