University of Vermont Extension
Winter (Holiday) News
Department of Plant and Soil Science
FLOWERING AMARYLLIS INDOORS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
poinsettias remain number one in popularity for holiday plants,
another plant that
you’ll find commonly during late fall and winter is the amaryllis.
sold either in bloom or bulb ready to pot, is a fast grower, has a
period, and requires minimal care. This
makes it a perfect choice for beginners or those without “green
its beauty is appreciated by even the more advanced gardeners.
trumpet flower resembles a lily, although it is not a member of that
is a tropical bulb, originally imported from Central and South
America. What we
usually call an amaryllis (said as am-ar-ILL-iss) or Dutch amaryllis
of these hybrids were bred there) is actually a different genus (Hippeastrum).
The true amaryllis, or Belladonna lily, that
you may find in specialty catalogs or stores originally came from
Africa. Since either of these do not
tolerate frost, they must be flowered indoors. Although the normal
season for the Dutch amaryllis is January through April, many
it into bloom earlier to be ready for the December holidays.
(the Dutch hybrids) most commonly found include red, pink or salmon,
and bicolors of red and white. You may be able to find some
at complete garden stores, or through mail order and online
catalogs. These smaller plants grow to only a foot or
so high and have smaller flowers, but otherwise look like the
amaryllis plants are sold already potted. All you do for these is
to just add
water. The larger the bulbs, the more
likely you will have multiple flower stalks. You can make a plant
flower for a special occasion by starting it five to seven
weeks before the selected date.
buy bulbs separately instead of pre-potted, or in kits complete with
pot ready to assemble, store them in a cool and dry location if you
hold them for later potting or giving as gifts.
Although these will keep for long periods, if sprouts start to
you'll need to plant them as soon as possible. Be careful not to
bulbs to freezing conditions.
bulbs in containers just slightly wider than the bulb, such as a 5
wide pot. There should be about an inch between the bulb and side
pot. Or, you may want to put three bulbs
in a 10 to 12-inch wide container. Amaryllis grow best if slightly
crowded. Use a standard houseplant
potting medium-- one containing a large amount of peat moss and no
soil. Pot at a depth so the top third (the “neck”) of
the bulb is exposed. The potting mix should
end up about a half inch to inch below the pot rim. This allows
space for watering.
A good way to not overwater (they don’t like to be
waterlogged) is through sub-irrigation with warm water. Do this by
filling a pot saucer or tray
underneath, then letting the soil absorb the water. After 30
any water that remains in the saucer. From this point until
flowering stems are
a couple inches high, water sparingly—only when the top inch or so
potting mix feels dry—perhaps once a week. Watering too frequently
or too much
can cause the bulb to rot. Also when watering, make sure and use
water that is
the freshly potted bulb in a warm location above 60 degrees (68 to
75 degrees F
is ideal—remember these are tropical).
Near a heat vent or wood stove (not on the woodstove), or on top of
refrigerator are good locations. Place your amaryllis in a warm
location that gets about
4 hours of direct sun daily, such as south-facing window. When the
flower bud stalk is about eight
inches tall, you can place the pot in a cooler location if you want
growth. When the first bud is about to open, keeping cooler (such as
50 to 60
degrees) will prolong the bloom period. Warmer temperatures speed up
Since bulbs are self-contained
packages, containing much food for the season, they don’t need much
You may fertilize lightly—about half strength of your normal
fertilizer-- every couple weeks, especially while the plant is in
your amaryllis has bloomed, don’t throw them out! You can save the
bulbs to reflower in
subsequent years. Start by removing the flowers as they fade.
Continue to water
the potted bulb regularly throughout the spring and summer. Apply
according to label directions. After
all danger of frost is past in the spring, you can plant the bulb,
pot and all,
in the garden in a semi-shaded spot. Don’t place in full sun or the
“burn” and turn brown.
September, take the potted amaryllis out of the garden before the
and place it in a dry, warm place. Stop
fertilizing and water less. Leaves should start dying back, at
point you can cut them off. Place the pots in a cool, dark place,
leave them alone. If you use the crisper
drawer of a refrigerator or cool cellar, make sure they are not
apples (these give off ethylene gas that may prevent bloom).
are dormant and need a rest for at least six weeks. Check weekly,
later in the fall when you see a new shoot emerging, start watering
as when you first got them— keep crowded in their pots, don’t
minimal fertilizer, keep warm, and give bright light (preferably
direct sun) at
least half a day.