Gardening 101: Amaryllis

Bring vibrant garden colors inside with this favorite holiday flower.
Gene B. Bussell

Beautiful amaryllis flowers rise on tall, sturdy stalks and gracefully unfurl to greet the holidays in reds, whites, pinks, oranges, and even green. They are some of the easiest bulbs to force into bloom.

Garden designer Frances Parker of Beaufort, South Carolina, grows lots of amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.). She loves their simple, elegant blooms and easy care. “I enjoy watching them grow,” she says. “Sometimes, they just seem to open so fast.” In most of the South, you can add them to your garden once they finish putting on an indoor show during the holidays, which is yet another reason why Frances is a fan.

Enjoy Amaryllis Bulbs Inside 
Most bulbs will produce multiple stalks, with each stalk having four blooms. Selections such as ‘Scarlet Baby’ and ‘Jewel’ are eager to bloom and will flower right away, while others can take up to six weeks. When you’re really in a hurry, just buy one already blooming.

If your amaryllis gets top-heavy enough to require staking, make the stake part of the show. Frances likes using the branches of flowering quince or curly willow. Amaryllis also work well as cut flowers. Buy blooms from your florist—or cut the ones you grow from their pots—and place in vases to dress up your holiday table.

Add Amaryllis Bulbs to Your Garden
You can easily grow amaryllis outdoors in the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South, and the selection ‘San Antonio Rose’ is cold hardy even in the Middle South. Saint Joseph’s lily (H. x johnsonii) is a favorite pass-along found in older Southern gardens.

Once forced blooms are spent, cut back stalks, and keep the bulbs fed and in a sunny spot inside. You can plant them outside after the last danger of frost has passed. Plant bulbs in drifts in your garden for a big show of color. They should bloom the following year, around Mother’s Day.

If you live in the Upper or Middle South, you can leave your amaryllis in their pots for years. They will multiply and like being crowded. Just protect them from cold winter weather. Bring them in before a freeze, and water them sparingly once they’re inside. You can also keep pots in a heated garage or basement to overwinter.

Our Favorite Amaryllis

  • ‘Double Dragon’: double, red
  • ‘Scarlet Baby’: miniature red, prolific bloomer
  • ‘Bogota’: bright red with an ivory streak
  • ‘Desire’: red-orange
  • ‘Red Lion’: the classic red amaryllis
  • ‘Benfica’: deep red

Sources for Amaryllis Bulbs
Look for amaryllis bulbs, kits, and potted blooming plants at your local nursery or garden center. Also remember that they make great holiday gifts. You’ll find lots of mail-order sources as well. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (brentandbeckysbulbs.com), John Scheepers (johnscheepers.com), and White Flower Farm (whiteflowerfarm.com)

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