An easygoing houseplant that will brighten the dark winter months.

Mark Anderson, owner, Anderson’s Seed and Garden 



It is nearly impossible to see an amaryllis in full bloom without admiring its huge flowers and bright colors. They can bloom for several weeks during the otherwise dreary winter months — usually just in time for the holidays. They don’t need much of your attention either: All you have to do is provide a little water and a warm, brightly lit spot, and they will become beautiful showstoppers in just a few weeks. Regularly, I hear from gardeners who received a bulb as a gift for the holidays, and they exclaim emphatically that it is the best gift they received all year. Hint: they make great gifts!

The size of the bulb directly relates to the size of the flowers and the quantity of flowers they can produce. Purchase as large of bulbs as you possibly can, you will not be disappointed. A 26-30 cm.-circumference Amaryllis bulb will usually produce 1 or 2 flower stems with 3 or 4 flowers per stem. A 34 cm.-an-up-circumference Amaryllis bulb will usually produce 2 or 3 flower stems with 3 or 4 flowers per stem, and sometimes 6. The largest bulbs, 40+ cm., regularly send up 3 or 4 stems with 4 to 6 flowers each. It’s not unusual for a 40+ cm. bulb to have 18-22 massive flowers. Don’t skimp on size.

When planting, use a container that is one to two inches larger in diameter than the circumference of the bulb. Containers can be clay, ceramic, metal, or plastic, and must have drainage in the bottom. Plant the bulb with about one-third to one-half of the bulb exposed above the soil. This helps reduce red blotch infection and other fungal diseases. Plant in a well-drained, sterilized soil medium like Ferti-lome Ultimate Potting Mix.

Immediately after planting, thoroughly water the bulb. Water once a week to keep the bulb in slightly moist soil condition until flowering. When flowering starts, increase the frequency of watering to twice a week. The sun-loving amaryllis grows best indoors in a well-lit area that receives at least four to six hours of direct sunlight a day. They prefer warm temperatures (70 to 75 degrees F) for best growth until the leaves and flower stalks start to grow. Once the plant flowers, cooler temperatures (65 degrees F) will prolong the life of the flowers.

At planting, a slow-release fertilizer like Multi-Cote or Garden-Cote can feed a bulb through the entire winter (3 or 4 months). After the plant begins to grow additional fertilization is essential. Twice a month, use a water-soluble fertilizer recommended for potted plants such as Ferti-lome Blooming and Rooting or Nutra-green from Baicor.

Amaryllis can be kept alive and brought to blossom the following year. But this takes some skill and work. It may just be easier to purchase a new bulb the next year. If you want to try, follow these directions: After the flowers have faded, keep watering the plant and start a feeding program with a liquid fertilizer like the Blooming & Rooting. Amaryllis are big eaters and they must grow many leaves during the summer. This helps them restore strength to produce new flowers the following year. As soon as the danger of frost is past, plant your Amaryllis, pot and all, in a sunny location in the garden. Continue the fertilizing program and let leaf growth develop freely. Around September the leaves begin to yellow, which indicates that the Amaryllis needs a rest. Cut the leaves back to the neck of the bulb. Store the bulb with pot and all at a temperature of about 55 degrees F. Store until December or January, or until the bulbs show signs of new growth, then it is time to start the bulb up for another round of flowers.

Even if you feel that you missed out when the green thumbs were awarded at birth, Amaryllis is one of those plants that are nearly foolproof. With a little effort on your part, you can enjoy amazing, colorful blooms for nearly a month during the coldest, darkest months of the year.