How To Plant Amaryllis Bulbs

Amaryllis Bulb

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Few gardening projects provide as much satisfaction as growing an amaryllis from a bulb. Amaryllis bulbs are among the easiest bulbs to bring into bloom indoors and their enormous flowers never fail to impress. The striking blooms bring a touch of the tropics to brighten the dark days of winter. Flowering in shades of red, pink, and white, amaryllis make dazzling gifts for the holidays and are also a favorite for Valentine’s Day. 

Buying Amaryllis Bulbs

Amaryllis can be purchased in many forms, from bare bulbs to plants in full flower. Of course, it is most fun to purchase and plant dormant amaryllis bulbs and watch them come into bloom. The first step to selecting an amaryllis bulb is deciding what variety you want to grow. Dutch breeders have spent centuries hybridizing Amaryllis in developing the flower we know and love.  Today, hundreds of cultivars are available with flower stalks ranging in height from 12 to 24 inches and each stalk producing 4 to 6 flowers. A bulb will typically produce two flower stalks. 

If purchasing bulbs from a brick-and-mortar store, select the largest bulb available for the desired variety. Look for firm, dry bulbs with no signs of mold or decay. It is not unusual to see a small amount of new growth emerging from the tip of the bulb.

When ordering online, be sure to buy from a reputable source to ensure the highest quality bulbs. Larger bulbs as a rule produce more stalks and blooms. Amaryllis bulbs are commonly sold as kits along with a decorative container, potting medium, and growing instructions.

When To Plant Amaryllis Bulbs

Whether you are growing an amaryllis plant to gift in bloom or planning your holiday décor, timing is everything. Once planted, amaryllis bulbs bloom in 8 to 10 weeks. Time bulb planting according to when you want the flowers to be in full bloom. For flowers during the Christmas season, start bulbs just after Halloween. For Valentine’s blooms, plant around New Year’s Day. 

How To Plant an Amaryllis Bulb

Amaryllis bulbs bloom best when they are crowded in their pots. Choose a container with good drainage that fits the bulb snugly, allowing just an inch of space around the edges of the bulb. Fill the pot halfway with fresh potting soil high in organic matter and tamp the soil down. Set the bulb into the soil, spreading the roots, then fill in around the bulb until the soil covers about 2/3 of the bulb. The top third of the bulb should be exposed. 

Once they bloom, amaryllis can become top-heavy and fall over. It is a good idea to place a bamboo stake alongside the bulb as you fill the container with soil to support the blooms once they emerge. Placing the stake now will help you avoid damaging the roots or bulb later. After planting, water the bulb until the soil is damp, allowing excess water to drain from the container. Then place the pot on a drainage tray and set in a warm, sunny location.

Caring for an Amaryllis Bulb

Water sparingly until green growth appears, allowing the top two inches of soil to dry before each watering. A good way to water small containers like your amaryllis pot is to place it in the kitchen sink and run water slowly until it pools slightly in the pot. Then allow all the extra water to drain out the drainage holes. It is important to allow excess water to drain away and avoid leaving the pot in a water-filled saucer, as wet soil can encourage bulb rot.

Water regularly when growth appears, keeping the soil moist, but not wet. A thick flower stalk will shoot up within a few weeks of planting. Flat leaves will fold open as the flower stalk matures. Turn the pot every few days once the stalk emerges to provide uniform light exposure on all sides. This encourages the stalk to grow straight. Once the flowers open, move the container away from direct light and other sources of heat. Amaryllis blooms will last longer if kept in a cooler location.

Those massive blooms require a lot of energy. Once growth emerges, fertilize amaryllis each time you water at half the recommended strength using a houseplant fertilizer rich in phosphorus. 

Amaryllis After-bloom Care

Amaryllis are long-lived plants and can be kept to bloom year after year. As individual flowers fade, carefully cut these off to prevent seed formation, leaving the other blossoms in place. Once all flowers fade and the stalk has turned yellow, you can cut back the entire flower stalk to the base.  

Allow the foliage to continue growing after plants finish flowering. This allows plants to replenish energy stores in the bulb. Place the plant in a bright sunny window and continue to water and fertilize regularly. The amaryllis will continue to grow long, strappy leaves.

After the danger of frost has past in the spring, you can move your amaryllis outdoors. Slowly acclimate your amaryllis to bright sunlight and let it continue to grow in a sunny location through the summer. Some gardeners like to bury the amaryllis—pot and all—in the garden for easier watering. Be sure to bring the plant back indoors in the fall before the first frost.

Forcing Amaryllis Bulbs To Rebloom

Amaryllis plants naturally bloom in the spring, not the winter. The process of getting plants to bloom out of season is called forcing. This typically requires exposing flower bulbs to a period of dormancy (either cold or dry, depending on the species). Amaryllis bulbs purchased from garden centers or catalogs are already conditioned to bloom immediately after planting. 

If you keep your amaryllis bulb from one year to the next, you will need to provide this conditioning to force plants to bloom in winter. After bringing the potted amaryllis indoors, store the potted plant in a dark, dry location, such as a basement or closet, for 8 to 12 weeks. Look for a location with cool temperatures, around 50-60˚F. Do not water plants during this time and allow the foliage to dry completely on the plant before cutting it off. After this conditioning period, move plants to a warm, sunny location and resume watering and fertilization as described above. Plants will bloom in six to eight weeks.

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