How to Plant and Care for Amaryllis
Poinsettias with their signature Santa-red petals, are America's go-to holiday plant, with more than 80 million sold each year. But what if we told you that there's a better flower out there? One that's more vibrant, easier to grow and even reblooms after the holiday season? We're talking about Amaryllis.
Like the Christmas cactus, another favorite, this tropical beauty thrives indoors with minimal care and flaunts spectacular long-lasting winter flowers. As a potted bulb and a source for cut flowers, the amaryllis is a versatile choice for sprucing up your home year-round. And it's a perfect flower to give on Christmas to relatives or your boss.
Ready to upgrade your windowsill? Here's what you need to know about amaryllis.
Amaryllis Planting and Care
Want to start your amaryllis plant from scratch? Follow these steps for a successful first season.
- Buy top-quality bulbs from a trusted supplier. They should be firm and dry, with no dark spots.
- To plant, first remove any dead, dried-out roots, then soak the fleshy roots for 1 hour.
- Choose a container that has a drainage hole and is about 2 inches wider than the diameter of 1 amaryllis bulb. For groups of 2 or more bulbs, select a wider pot that provides an equally snug fit.
- Use a fast-draining soil medium with enough sand to provide a weighty anchor for the tall full-grown plant. Or try a soilless mix of peat, coarse sand, vermiculite and charcoal in a ratio of 3:3:2:1.
- Place a pottery shard over drainage hole, and fill container with potting mix up to bulb "shoulders" (the point where a bulb tapers toward its top, or "nose"). At least 1/3 of each bulb should project above the mix. Arrange multiple bulbs with shoulders touching.
- Water thoroughly, and set pot in a warm (65 to 70 degrees), bright place. Then water sparingly, until new growth emerges. Once you have new growth, water regularly.
- Fertilize monthly with liquid houseplant food, or apply a balanced time-release fertilizer according to label directions.
To prolong amaryllis bloom time, move pot to a cooler (about 60 degrees) area, out of direct sunlight, as soon as flowers start to open.
How to Get Your Amaryllis to Flower
After your amaryllis has bloomed, it may seem past its prime, but don't throw it away.Amaryllis bulbs have been known to flower annually for up to 40 years. If you follow these tips, you'll have an even larger plant next year.
- After all flowers have faded, cut stems 1 to 2 inches above the bulb, leaving foliage in place.
- Keep plant in bright light, and water regularly; soil mix should be moist, not soggy.
- In summer, continue to water and fertilize. The pot may be set in a sunny spot outdoors.
- In September, stop watering and fertilizing; if plant has been outdoors, bring it back inside. Set the pot in a cool, dry and dark place like a closet for 8 to 10 weeks. After dormancy, a small amount of fresh mix may be added to pot, just below bulb-shoulder level; or bulb may be repotted as if new.
- To start the next growth cycle, move pot to a warm place and water. Cut off wilted leaves flush with the bulb. Water the bulb, set it in a sunny window, and don't water it again until it shows signs of awakening. Your newly awakened amaryllis bulb will grow into a tall, elegant flower, which, if you time it right, will bloom just as next Christmas rolls around.
Tip: Dutch hybrid amaryllis will rebloom in 8 to 12 weeks; African hybrids will rebloom in 4 to 6 weeks.
Instead of soil, you may choose to "water plant" your amaryllis. This hydroponic method makes for a beautiful display, and is much simpler than you think.
- Fill a clear vessel with a three-inch layer of stones or pebbles.
- Add the amaryllis bulb, then add more stones around it for stability.
- Add water just below the bulb, but quite not touching it-the roots should reach the water, but the bulb should not be submerged (this will cause rot).
- Place your jar on a sunny windowsill and monitor the water level to make sure it remains consistent.
After your water-planted amaryllis blooms, it's time to move it into a pot with soil. The plant will not last more than one flowering in water.
How to Cut Amaryllis Flowers
Amaryllis make for stunning cut flowers. However, once removed from the plant, they require significant care to look their best in a vase. Follow these steps for top-notch blooms.
- Partially fill a clean vase or other container with water (amaryllis stay fresh longer in shallow water). Add 1 pack of cut-flower food.
- Using a sharp knife, cut stem at a 45-degree angle. Immediately turn flower upside down and pour fresh water into stem. The hollow stems must stay full of water.
- Plug cut opening with a cotton ball, and transfer amaryllis to vase.
- Repeat steps 1 through 3 every 2 to 3 days.
- Remove spent blooms as new flowers open.
With proper care, cut amaryllis flowers last up to two weeks.
Different Types of Amaryllis
The amaryllis is far from a one-note flower. New varieties are constantly being developed, with growers hybridizing to create extraordinary colors, shapes and markings. The following are just a few of the many varieties available.
- Santos: A candy-striped showstopper with orange-red markings
- Minerva: A white, star-shaped center creates a big visual impact
- Benfica: Complete with huge, deep red flowers that resemble luxe velvet
- Temptation: Intricate white and red blooms with artful brushstroke patterns
- Red Nymph: Oversized, rose-like blooms imbued with a deep scarlet hue
- Monaco: Featuring fire engine-red blossoms for a not-so-subtle statement
- Samba: This newcomer boasts striped red-and-white blossoms
- Emerald: Smaller, more refined blossoms with a sophisticated mix of green, white and burgundy
- Jungle Star: Exotic, spidery green petals streaked with burgundy
- Le Paz: Tentacle-like coral petals are detailed with green-white accents
- Dancing Queen: Full, flouncy blooms with candy cane striping
- Pink Floyd: Neon pink blossoms with a lily-like presentation
While beautiful to look at, amaryllis can be toxic to pets. If ingested by cats or dogs, the plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, drooling, loss of appetite and tremors.
If you suspect your pet has snacked on your amaryllis, contact your veterinarian.
To prevent potential problems, make sure your plants are out of reach of all pets, even the most ambitious felines. If you have trouble keeping your cats away from your plants, reconsider keeping amaryllis in your home.
Learn more: Watch the video below for Martha's tips on growing amaryllis flower bulbs.