Gardeners who enjoy the appearance of lilies and are looking for a similar perennial will enjoy amaryllis flowers. This guide introduces you to these elegant blooms and teaches you how to grow and care for them.
Skip to any section in the advanced jump below, or read on for the full amaryllis growing guide.
- What Are Amaryllises?
- Are Amaryllises Perennials or Annuals?
- Amaryllis Basics
- Where Do Amaryllises Grow?
- Why Grow Amaryllises?
- When Do Amaryllises Bloom?
- How Long Do Amaryllises Bloom?
- When to Plant Amaryllises
- Ideal Growing Conditions for Amaryllises
- How to Plant Amaryllises
- How to Propagate Amaryllises
- How to Care for Amaryllises
- Recommended Planting Combinations for Amaryllis
- Amaryllis Landscaping Ideas
- Recommended Amaryllis Varieties
- Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Amaryllises
- Where to Buy Amaryllises
What Are Amaryllises?
The name “amaryllis” is ambiguous, as it can actually refer to plants in either of two different genera:
• Hippeastrum: This genus contains about 90 species and more than 600 hybrids. It is part of the family Amaryllidaceae. The flowers are grown from bulbs and are popular during the holiday season since they have a winter bloom time. When someone talks about “amaryllis” plants, they are usually referring to these perennials.
• Amaryllis: There is actually a genus of plants that has the scientific name Amaryllis, which is also part of the family Amaryllidaceae. This genus is not nearly as large as Hippeastrum, and often blooms around March (leading to them being known as “March lilies.” They also grow from bulbs.
In this post, our focus is going to be mainly on plants that are in the genus Hippeastrum, as we believe that most people who are looking up tips for growing amaryllis flowers are interested specifically in that genus. You can assume we are talking about that genus unless we state otherwise.
Something else worth noting is that one might confuse amaryllis plants with spider lily plants because spider lilies are also part of the Amaryllidaceae family, but they are in a few other genera (not the two we mentioned above). See our Spider Lily Full Growing Guide for clarification (and to learn about growing spider lilies).
Coming back to Hippeastrum amaryllis plants, the name Hippeastrum comes from the Greek for “knight’s star.”
There are both single and double varieties of amaryllis flowers. The plants come in different sizes as well, including miniature cultivars. Some plants produce tubular flowers; these are referred to as “trumpet” cultivars of amaryllis.
Are Amaryllises Perennials or Annuals?
You might think that amaryllis is an annual, but you would be incorrect. The reason you may believe that is because, quite often, we receive amaryllises as gifts during the holiday season. Like poinsettias, they put on a marvelous display during winter. So, many people assume that they will bloom during the holiday season and then die afterward. But this is not the case.
Amaryllis is a perennial plant. You just need to provide it with the right environment and care, and it will bloom every year.
Do not throw out the amaryllis plant someone gave you for the holidays after its bloom period is over! Just follow the directions in this post to give your amaryllis a chance to bloom again each season and bring you joy for years to come.
|Winter through spring
|Up to 36 inches
|Partial shade or full sun
Where Do Amaryllises Grow?
Amaryllis plants are tropical, hailing from the Americas. You might think that would confine them to growing in zones 9-11. But you can actually get away with growing some varieties of amaryllis even in zones 7-8. As a result, they have been cultivated in many parts of the world.
They do work as indoor plants as well; so you can overwinter them indoors in colder climates and/or keep them as year-round houseplants.
Why Grow Amaryllises?
Below are a few reasons to plant amaryllis in your home or garden:
• Iowa State University suggests that amaryllis is a great plant for beginners and children. The university extension explains, “The popularity and enjoyment of amaryllis not only comes from the beauty of the large, bright, lily-like flowers, it comes from watching the strong, stout stem grow out of the bulb into a tall, blooming plant in just a few weeks. They are fascinating and fun to grow for gardeners and non-gardeners of all ages. Amaryllis offers an excellent, hands-on learning opportunity for children to plant and watch grow. The bulbs are very large, easy to handle and plant, and begin to grow soon after planting.”
• These beautiful flowers can bloom through a wide part of the year, especially if you stagger them. Moreover, you can get them to bloom in winter if you want.
• While many people buy amaryllises as holiday centrepieces (or receive them as holiday gifts), they actually are perennials that can bloom year after year. They are the gift that keeps on giving, and they require very little in the way of care and maintenance to do it.
• While these plants naturally bloom during spring, you can force them to be winter bloomers for some color and life as you await the rest of your blooms in spring.
• Amaryllis is a deer-resistant plant.
• The flowers of amaryllis can have varied hues and appearances depending on which cultivars you get.
When Do Amaryllises Bloom?
The bloom period for amaryllis begins toward the end of December and continues until the end of June.
You should note that when you receive an amaryllis that is in bloom during the holiday season, often, the blooms were forced.
If you allow amaryllis to bloom naturally when it wants to, it is more likely to bloom during spring.
So, if you received amaryllis in bloom during winter, and the next year, it is not in bloom during winter, do not fret—it probably will bloom in spring.
Another thing to note is that the planting time for amaryllis impacts the bloom period.
That means that if you stagger your plantings of amaryllis, it can give you a longer bloom period overall. Some of the plants will bloom earlier than others.
How Long Do Amaryllises Bloom?
The bloom time for amaryllis is 7-10 weeks.
As is typical with bulb plants, amaryllis usually only blooms a single time per year. But there are some types of amaryllis that may bloom up to three times per year.
When to Plant Amaryllises
According to the Amaryllis & Caladium Bulb Company, the best time to plant these bulbs is between October and the end of April. That gives you a pretty long span of time.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Amaryllises
Let’s go over the sun, water, and soil requirements to keep amaryllis plants healthy.
How Much Sun Do Amaryllises Need?
Bright sunlight is good for amaryllis. In fact, they need about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day. So, a sunny window can be a good choice indoors. Outdoors, you should select a spot with full sun or partial shade.
Make sure it is light shade, not heavy shade. In full shade, amaryllis can survive, but it will not produce blooms as well as it does in full sun or partial shade.
Something that is useful to know about growing amaryllis is that the stems tend to lean into light. So, if the light is all coming from one side (i.e., through a window), and you do not rotate the plant, then the stalk is probably going to lean in that direction as it grows.
The way to prevent this is simple: just keep rotating the amaryllis while it is growing to encourage a more upright stalk. Staking can help too.
What Type of Soil is Right for Amaryllises?
Amaryllis likes moist soil but not wet soil. To prevent soggy soil conditions, you need to make sure that the potting soil you are using is well-draining. It is also good for the soil to be on the rich side. Useful amendments can include compost, perlite, and peat. The pH that is best for amaryllis plants is just slightly acidic.
How Much Water Do Amaryllises Need?
Dutch Grown offers specific instructions about how to water your amaryllis plants, saying, “When you first receive your amaryllis bulb … water lightly and place the pot in a warm, bright room, and a stem with a bud will soon appear. Keep the soil just moist; too much watering will cause the bulb to rot. Your amaryllis will bloom within 6 - 8 weeks after planting.”
Once blooms appear, Dutch Grown says that you should water enough to maintain soil moisture. Keep watering regularly through the growing season, but reduce it once late summer arrives. This is around when the plant is preparing to go dormant.
The dormancy period itself lasts about 8 weeks of every year. During this time, which spans from about the beginning of September through to the end of October, you stop watering them altogether.
After October ends, it will be time for your plants to emerge from dormancy. You now begin watering them once more.
How to Plant Amaryllises
You can plant amaryllis bulbs in your flower beds, or you can put them in containers. Below, we offer step-by-step instructions for both options.
1. Select a suitable location in your garden for the amaryllises.
2. Amend the soil with compost or manure so that it is rich. Adding compost can boost drainage too.
3. Make holes for your amaryllis bulbs. Space them about 12-15” apart.
4. Plant the bulbs in the holes.
5. Backfill the soil. The necks of the bulbs should be about even with the level of the soil.
6. Water well.
1. Start by choosing a container for your amaryllis. You will need to size the pot so that there is about an inch between the bulb and the sides and base. While the plant needs adequate space, it does not want too much room.
Of course, the container needs to have drainage holes.
2. Use a potting mix that contains significant perlite and peat for excellent drainage.
3. Once you have filled the container with a couple of inches of potting mix, you should set the bulb inside.
4. Fill in the rest of the potting mix. The top of the bulb should be about even with the top of the potting mix or slightly above it.
5. Water well.
6. Choose a place for the container. You might want to make sure that the bulb gets a little additional heat and light when you are starting out with it.
If your amaryllis is living in a container, you need to be mindful of whether it needs to be moved to a larger one. Amaryllis appreciates slightly root-bound conditions, but there is still such a thing as their space becoming too cramped. When that happens, you will need to size up their containers. A typical timeframe for doing this is every several years.
How to Propagate Amaryllises
You can save money on amaryllis in the future by propagating it. The best method is division, but we will also go over the instructions below for how to grow amaryllis from seeds.
Starting Amaryllises from Seed
You should only try growing amaryllis from seed if you are patient. It is much faster to propagate them from divisions. Here is how you can do it if you decide to give it a try.
1. Fill small containers with potting mix. Use a spray bottle to get it moist, then let the excess drain out through the holes on the bottoms of the containers.
2. Sow the seeds.
3. Place a cover on top of each container. This is how you can lock in the moisture, reducing the frequency with which you need to water the seeds. When you do so, use the spray bottle so you do not risk dislodging the seeds.
4. Continue to monitor and water your seeds.
5. Eventually, the seeds will germinate, and the seedlings will sprout up. You will notice that their appearance resembles grass.
6. Once the plants seem like they are ready, you can transplant them into your garden beds or containers.
7. Harden the young plants if you are putting them outside. Take them outdoors for short periods of time, then progressively longer periods of time. Once they are adjusted, they can remain outdoors.
You may not see blooms on your new amaryllis plants for a few years. This is completely normal and does not indicate anything has gone wrong. Keep maintaining them, and eventually, they will start blooming.
Starting Amaryllises from Cuttings
You cannot actually use cuttings to start amaryllis, at least according to Horticulture Magazine.
Stick with divisions or seeds for propagation.
How to Divide Amaryllises
To divide amaryllis plants, follow these simple steps somewhere around January through March.
1. Remove your amaryllis from its container, or dig it up from the ground. If you need to remove it from the ground, the easiest method is to use a shovel to dig in a circle around it and then push down beneath it and lift upwards to free the bulb. Make sure you do not cut into the bulb or roots.
2. Wipe away any excess dirt so you can get a good look at the bulb.
3. You will notice that the bulb has a few smaller bulbs attached to it that are called “offsets.”
Some of the offsets will have root systems of their own, while some of them will not. Ignore the ones that do not have roots. Gently break off the ones that do.
4. Dig holes in your garden for the divided amaryllises, or plant them in containers. Fill in the soil and water well.
It’s a very easy process and an effective one too. Take extra care of the new plants as they are establishing.
How to Care for Amaryllises
Planting and propagating amaryllis is easy, and caring for it is too. Let’s talk about what you need to know about fertilizing, mulching, staking, and pruning these perennial bulb plants.
How to Fertilize Amaryllises
Amaryllises are hungry plants, requiring fertilizing every 2-4 weeks. The University of New Hampshire suggests using a balanced liquid fertilizer.
How to Mulch Amaryllises
You might want to mulch amaryllis during winter to insulate the bulb and roots of the plant.
When spring comes around, remove the mulch so that the bulb is unimpeded as it sprouts and to prevent a build-up of moisture that could lead to bulb rot.
When summer shows up, you might want to mulch again, this time to help keep the soil moist and prevent weeds from growing too close to your amaryllis plants.
How to Stake Amaryllises
It is often necessary to stake amaryllis plants. Each flower stalk looks sturdy, but the blooms can be heavy.
You might even want to insert stakes before you plant your bulbs (or while you are planting them). Otherwise, you can insert them later. But you have to be really careful not to push them down into the bulbs, which can kill your plants.
Bamboo stakes work well, but you can also pick stakes made out of other materials. Try not to use really thick stakes in containers, given the small amount of space your amaryllis has to begin with.
The types of stakes that have built-in loops work especially well for amaryllises, but you can also use straight stakes and tie the plants to them loosely.
How to Prune Amaryllises
Amaryllis is a very simple plant to prune. It involves two steps: deadheading and cutting back.
How to Deadhead Amaryllises
Deadheading takes place after your amaryllis blooms wilt. To deadhead your amaryllis, cut off the flowering stems entirely after the blooms have faded. Do not cut back the leaves at this point!
With a lot of plants, deadheading helps to encourage a second flush of blooms. This may be the case if you happen to have a re-blooming type of amaryllis. But remember, most amaryllises only bloom once a year.
Still, even with those amaryllises, deadheading serves an important purpose. It stops the plants from going to seed and lets them save up energy toward producing their blooms the next year.
That is why you should not cut back the leaves at this point; the plants need the sunlight for this process.
When to Cut Back Amaryllises
You can cut back the leaves of amaryllis plants after their foliage starts to die back. This signals that the amaryllises are starting to enter dormancy.
How to Force Dormancy for Holiday Blooms
Do you want your amaryllis to bloom during the holidays rather than in spring? This is not something that happens naturally. You need to force it. In order to make that happen, you actually need to force dormancy in autumn.
The University of New Hampshire explains how to do it, saying, “When you bring your amaryllis indoors, store it in a cool, dry, and dark place. Let the leaves die back before cutting them off, and do not water. After 10-12 weeks, move the bulb back into a bright, sunny place and begin watering and fertilizing once more. If your amaryllis has been well-cared for, you can expect to see flower development in 4-6 weeks.”
How to Store Bulbs During Dormancy
After you have trimmed back the dead foliage of your amaryllis, you can store the bulb until it is ready to begin its next growing season.
Assuming you are in a climate zone where your amaryllis can spend the entire year outdoors, you can just leave it where it is.
But if you are not, then you can move the bulb indoors. If it is in a pot, then you can just bring the pot in.
Otherwise, you will need to dig it up. It needs to be stored at around 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. You might have suitable conditions in a basement or such, but if not, then it will need to go in your fridge. Here are a couple of things to note about storing amaryllis bulbs in your fridge:
• The bulbs need to be in the dark. Your fridge should be perfect for that, as long as the light doesn’t get jammed into the “on” function.
• Here is a weird thing—you must never put apples in your fridge at the same time as amaryllis bulbs. As weird as it may seem, the very presence of the apples can cause the bulbs to become sterile and/or produced malformed blooms.
You probably want an explanation about the apples, right? Alice Slusher at Ask Extension writes, “The ethylene gas given off by apples might prevent the amaryllis from blooming or possibly produce deformed flowers. The gas can also cause rot in the bulbs. You would have noticed if the bulbs were sort and rotten, so that's a good thing. Since one of your plants is blooming now, chances are the others will, too.”
So, leave your apples on the counter. Putting them in the fridge is a recipe for disaster.
Are Amaryllises Vulnerable to Diseases or Pests?
Growing healthy amaryllises means keeping them safe from diseases and pests to the best of your ability.
Some diseases that amaryllises can contract include leaf scorch, bulb rot, root rot, mosaic virus, and botrytis blight.
Some insects that can cause problems for amaryllis include mites, aphids, thrips, grasshoppers, mealybugs, and the larvae of certain species of butterflies and moths. Snails and slugs can also eat amaryllis plants.
Deer and rabbits may avoid eating amaryllis because it is toxic, but not every deer or rabbit is going to be aware of this. They can also get desperate if they are really hungry. So, while amaryllis is deer- and rabbit-resistant, it is not impossible for them to try to take a bite out of these plants.
Recommended Planting Combinations for Amaryllis
Here are a few plants that can make suitable companions for your amaryllis flowers:
• Gardenia: These lovely white flowers bloom in May and June, making this perennial an elegant companion for amaryllis. See our Gardenia Full Growing Guide.
• Allium: Another bulb plant that can work well as a companion for amaryllis is allium. Some of these perennials may bloom alongside your amaryllises in spring, while others will start blooming in summer when your amaryllises are starting to fade.
• Daffodil: These bulb plants are in the same family as amaryllises and bloom in winter and spring. So, they may be in blossom at the same time as amaryllis.
Amaryllis Landscaping Ideas
Here are some ways to use amaryllis in your garden:
• Borders: Amaryllis plants can be used to create colorful borders alongside walls, fences, paths, driveways and flower beds.
• Pleasing clumps: Many gardeners like to cluster a bunch of amaryllises together in little clumps here and there in their gardens.
• Around focal points: A popular landscaping technique with amaryllises is to plant them in a circle around the base of a tree or other focal point. They do a wonderful job framing the focal point and drawing even more attention.
• Container garden: Amaryllises are beautiful in container gardens on your patio or deck or indoors.
Recommended Amaryllis Varieties
Here are a few types of amaryllis to consider planting for gorgeous blooms in your garden:
• Amaryllis Clown: With red and white stripes, The “Clown” cultivar of amaryllis will make a standout statement in your garden. It can be an especially good choice for a holiday table display indoors as well since the alternating stripes will remind you of peppermint candies.
• Amaryllis Snow Drift: As the name suggests, the beautiful blooms of this cultivar are snowy white.
• Amaryllis Pink Pizzazz: You would be forgiven for mistaking these deep pink blooms for hibiscus flowers at a glance. They bear a striking resemblance to them, although the elegant stems are a giveaway that you are really looking at amaryllis blooms.
• Amaryllis Evergreen: This type of amaryllis has blooms in a particularly unusual color: pale green. It is a somewhat later bloomer than the average amaryllis cultivar. That can be a good thing if you are looking for a late-blooming addition to your garden to extend the overall bloom season for your amaryllis display.
• Amaryllis Elvas: One of the most eye-catching double bloom cultivars of amaryllis is this one, which produces white flowers with thin, dark red rims. The petals also feature dark red spots and veins toward their centers, making for a captivating look.
• Amaryllis Desire: The beautiful shade of deep, bold orange makes the blooms of the “Desire” cultivar truly outstanding.
• Amaryllis Ruby Star: One of the cultivars of amaryllis that features blooms that are among the most exquisite shades is “Ruby Star.” The petals are deep red, lined with pale green.
• Amaryllis Quito: Each bloom stalk of this cultivar sports a blossom with bright pink petals that are long and thin. It is a cybister amaryllis, which we also call a “spider” amaryllis.
• Amaryllis Glee: Another gorgeous cultivar to plant for attractive blooms is this one. The flowers it produces are white with prominent dark red veins.
• Amaryllis Double Dream: This cultivar’s double blooms are pink and almost bear a resemblance to roses, giving it a quintessentially romantic appearance.
• Amaryllis Minerva: Minerva was the Greek goddess of wisdom, and you would be wise to order some Minerva bulbs to plant in your garden. You will be rewarded during their bloom period with flowers that are bright red around the edges and lined with white in the middle of each petal.
• Amaryllis Bogota: If you want a type of amaryllis plant that produces blooms in a truly stunning hue, then look no further than the “Bogota” cultivar with its deep reddish petals.
• Amaryllis Santiago: The blooms of this cultivar feature dark red petals striped with white for a vivid contrast.
• Amaryllis Dancing Queen: This cultivar features marvelous double blooms with petals striped in white and salmon for a breathtaking appearance.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Amaryllises
Let’s answer a few common questions about amaryllis to conclude our growing guide.
Insects, slugs, and snails often eat amaryllis plants, so that is probably what is going on if you notice bits of your plants have been chewed on. On occasion, it could also be a mammal, despite the plant’s toxicity.
Yes, amaryllis are toxic to pets. The American Kennel Club writes, “The Amaryllis contains Lycorine and other noxious substances, which can cause increased salivation, gastrointestinal abnormalities (vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and abdominal pain), lethargy, and tremors in both cats and dogs. The bulb of the plant is reputed to be more toxic than the flowers and stalk.”
So, be sure to keep your amaryllis away from your pets. That includes not just dogs and cats but rabbits and other critters as well.
No, amaryllis is decidedly not edible. They are poisonous to animals and humans alike. So, you should not try eating them either.
At a glance, amaryllis look like plants that would be appealing to pollinators. But that does not mean that they make a good addition to a pollinator garden. In fact, you might want to actually avoid planting them near other flowers that pollinators favor.
A lot of sources say that carpenter bees pollinate amaryllis, but we have seen other sources claim that amaryllis is toxic to bees.
We have not been able to find a definitive answer to this question; it may well depend on the type of bee.
We also found a post on Reddit that reports the death of a hummingbird shortly after feeding on amaryllis. The poster is not certain but believes that the hummingbird may have been poisoned by the plant.
So, we think it is better to be safe than sorry. Birds and insects who might be poisoned by amaryllis probably instinctively avoid it but might sometimes still be tempted by it if it is in the midst of other plants that are pollinator-friendly.
Keeping it indoors will prevent this issue. And if you see a hummingbird closing in on an amaryllis plant in your garden, you might want to chase it off.
You might balk at the cost of an individual amaryllis bulb. But since you can divide the bulbs every few years, they are not as expensive in the long run as you might believe. If you are willing to purchase just a few amaryllis bulbs, over the years ahead, they will gradually result in a larger number of plants.
Indeed, this is applicable to other bulb plants as well. So, do not shy away from adding them to your garden, even if you are working on a tight budget.
No, neither of the genera that we refer to as “amaryllis” plants are lilies, even though they look similar to them and sometimes are referred to by common names that reference lilies.
True lilies are part of the genus Lilium. That genus is not even part of the amaryllis family. See our True Lily Full Growing Guide for more information.
Many amaryllis plants do not have any scent. But if you want a fragrant cultivar, try “Dancing Queen.” One of the reasons there are not more fragrant types of amaryllis is that the scent is a recessive trait for plants in the Hippeastrum genus.
Where to Buy Amaryllises
Your local garden center probably will carry some cultivars of amaryllis, especially close to the holiday season. But if you want to shop a broader range of cultivars, or if you are looking to buy amaryllis off-season, you will have better luck online.