How To Grow And Care For Amaryllis

Bring vibrant garden colors inside with planting tips for the amaryllis.

Photo: Van Chaplin

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. 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 another reason to love this plant. Despite its beauty, the amaryllis is toxic to pets and people, similar to daffodils. Consuming amaryllis can cause vomiting, a drop in blood pressure, and respiratory issues.

Plant Attributes

  • Common Name: Amaryllis, Belladonna Lily, Jersey Lily
  • Botanical Name: Hippeastrum genus
  • Family: Amaryllidaceae
  • Plant Type: Perennial, Bulb
  • Mature Size: 18-36 in. tall, 9-12 in. wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, Rich
  • Soil pH: Acidic (6.0 to 6.5)
  • Bloom Time: Spring, Winter
  • Flower Color: Red, Pink, Apricot, White
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 7-10 (USDA)
  • Native Area: Africa
  • Toxicity: toxic to pets, toxic to people

Amaryllis Care

You can easily grow amaryllis outdoors in the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South and the Middle South. Saint Joseph's lily (H. x johnsonii) is a favorite pass-along found in older Southern gardens. 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. Most bulbs will produce multiple stalks, with each stem having four blooms.

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.


Amaryllis grows best in full sun. In containers, amaryllis grows best in the morning sun and afternoon shade.


Whether planting in containers indoors or outside, amaryllis grows best in well-draining, acidic soil. When planting inside, use potting soil that has an equal balance between peat moss and perlite. These bulbs don't need a lot of room. You can grow several in one container, and they will still thrive. When planting outside, choose an area with morning sun and aim for rich, well-draining soil and a mix of sandy and loamy.


Keep soil moist. When flowering, you'll know it is time to water when the top two inches are dry. Amaryllis should not sit in water-logged soil, so allow it to drain completely before watering again.

Temperature and Humidity

Amaryllis grows in temperatures ranging from 50°F to 70°F. Amaryllis has few humidity requirements, so average interior conditions should suffice. Be sure to maintain warm temperatures, similar to its native tropical climate.


Fertilize amaryllis when watering with a mixture high in phosphorus. Packagings described as 10-20-15 typically work well for amaryllis. Use the fertilizer when the flower is blooming or new growth is visible. Do not fertilize during the dormant period.

Types of 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


After flowers fade, cut them to prevent seed formation, which would use the plant's energy, reducing future blooms. Cut the flowers above the bulb, but don't until the stalk is yellow. (Green flower stalks signify future growth). After removing flowers, place amaryllis plants in a sunny location and continue the same water and fertilization schedule.

Propagating Amaryllis

Since amaryllis grows from bulbs like daffodils, the best way to propagate new growth is by dividing offsets from the mother bulb. Dividing bulbs can happen in autumn (October or November) or late winter (February or March). Dividing bulbs in autumn promotes forced growth for holiday flowers. Here's how to propagate amaryllis flowers by dividing the bulbs:

  1. Use a garden spade to cut a circle around the amaryllis, careful not to disturb the roots. Cut deeply into the soil, but keep some distance around the bulb.
  2. Remove the soil from the bulb by gently shaking the plant or using water.
  3. Separate the bulbs from the mother bulb—using a knife to pull the bulbs apart gently might be necessary, but don't cut the roots or remove any bulbils.
  4. Return the mother bulb to its original location and replant it if that is where you intend to grow it. Fill a container with rich, organic soil and immediately plant the new bulbs.
  5. Leave part of the bulb above the soil line. Choose a container that is only a few inches larger than the bulb.
  6. Place the container in a sunny location and keep the soil moist for three to four weeks until you see new growth.


Amaryllis needs protection from cold winter weather. Bring them in before a freeze, and water them sparingly once inside. You can also keep pots in a heated garage or basement to overwinter.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Outdoor amaryllis is more susceptible to pests than indoor plants. Some problems include spider mites, mealybugs, slugs, and snails. Treat these pests with insecticide soap or horticultural oil.

One fungus that amaryllis is particular in danger of developing is red blotch. A sign of this fungus is small red dots on the outside of the bulb, which, left untreated, can spread through the flower stalk and emerging leaves. Treat with a fungicide or gently wipe the bulbs with an alcohol solution.

Too much water can rot the bulb increasing the likelihood of pests or fungus developing.

How to Get Amaryllis to Bloom

Allowing amaryllis around three months of dormancy helps it to bloom. During this time, suspend watering and fertilizing the plants and keep them in a cool, dark location.

Expect flowering for seven to 10 weeks. Removing flowers will encourage new growth. Also, adding fertilizer when blooming helps it replenish its nutrients. Use a garden stake to help it stand if your amaryllis is drooping or top-heavy. Expect to see around three flower stalks for every bulb planted.

Maintaining a water and fertilizer schedule will help amaryllis to get the nutrients it needs to bloom. Access to direct sunlight also impacts the amaryllis' ability to bloom.

Common Problems With Amaryllis

Plant Leaves Falling Off

Ensure the top two inches of soil remain moist to prevent leaves from drooping or falling over. Underwatering can prevent the essential nutrients from reaching the plant's leaves. If water balance is not an issue, the amount of direct sunlight can impact growth.

Leaves Turning Yellow

The reason amaryllis are turning yellow depends on the season. Before dormancy and after blooming is finished for the season, amaryllis leaves will naturally turn yellow, so this is normal. If amaryllis leaves turn yellow out of dormancy, this signifies an issue such as bulb rot. Bulb rot typically occurs from overwatering, so give enough time for the soil to drain before watering again.

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