Amaryllis Planting Guide

Amaryllis are glorious for brightening indoors spaces and keeping winter’s gray at bay. Big, bold and beautiful. And they’re easy. Super easy. For great success you need three things: 1) good quality bulbs to start with, 2) a sunny spot and 3) a little water. That’s it. Read on for details and prove that your thumb is green after all. 

(Here's how to make sure you start with high quality bulbs: Great Amaryllis bulbs.)

Amaryllis Planting Information

Choosing a Growing Site

Amaryllis can be grown successfully indoors on a sunny windowsill, or outside in the garden if you live in a warm region, zones 8-10. These plants originated in Central and South America; they thrive in warmth and need bright light.

Soil Prep

Like almost all bulbs, amaryllis grow best with soil that drains well. Soggy soil often results in rotted bulbs. Other than that, amaryllis aren’t fussy and most any commercially available potting mix will work nicely. If you are planting amaryllis in the garden, choose an area where water doesn’t puddle after a rain, as that typically indicates less than ideal drainage.

When to Plant Amaryllis

Plant your amaryllis upon receipt. If you need to wait a few days, that’s fine. Waiting weeks, with bulbs held out of the controlled temperature and humidity conditions at our facility, results in drying and shrinking. (Envision the amaryllis typically found in big box stores.) While dried bulbs are often still viable, these conditions can be stressful for the plants and may produce small or weak flowers.

How to Plant Amaryllis Bulbs

Choose a container that’s snug, about 1-2” wider than your bulb and about 5-6” deep. Amaryllis bloom best when they are pot bound. Also, a container with a modest amount of soil is less likely to hold too much water; causing bulb rot. A container with a drainage hole in the bottom allows excess water to run off and helps avoid soggy soil.

Fill the container about one third full of soil, position your bulb with the pointy end facing up and add more soil until just the top 1/4 - 1/3 of the bulb is left exposed. That’s all; don’t bury the entire bulb. Amaryllis do best when their “shoulders” are above the soil line. Water to settle the soil around your bulb.

Then, wait. Some amaryllis varieties sprout quickly and develop a flower stalk in just 10-14 days. Some take weeks to get going. Variability within a single variety isn't uncommon; some individual bulbs just sprout faster than others. Papillio is notoriously slow and can take 2+ months to begin to sprout. During this time keep the soil very lightly moist, not wet. It’s better to err on the too-dry side than on the too-wet one.

During the Growing Season

While your amaryllis is actively growing, add enough water to keep the soil lightly moist, not wet. Rotate the pot a quarter turn every couple of days to encourage flower stems to grow straight rather than towards the light. After flowering has finished, trim off spent blossoms. The stalks will dry and then can be removed.

Note: amaryllis foliage may precede flower stalks, grow at the same time or develop afterwards. This timing is variety-specific and is not dependent on growing conditions. Don’t worry if you don’t see foliage. It’s not needed for flowering.

At Season’s End

If you live in part of the country where amaryllis can be grown outdoors, feel free to transplant your bulb to the garden come spring. It will probably skip a flowering season while it settles in, or bloom that first year in the summer. After that, your plant will resume a flowering schedule that’s normal for amaryllis, i.e. each spring.

For those who live in a colder part of the country, amaryllis bulbs may be discarded or composted after they bloom.

Insider Tips

  1. Amaryllis bloom times vary. Influencing factors include: where the bulbs were grown (South America, Holland or Israel) as south of the equator locations have growing seasons opposite ours, individual cultivar (some are faster than others) and your own growing conditions. Warmer indoor temperatures prompt faster growth. Weeks-to-bloom information represents guidelines, not absolutes. Mother Nature works on her own schedule.
  2. To extend amaryllis flower life move your plant to a cool room when buds are just opening. At this point, full sun isn’t needed and cool temperatures slow plant development, helping blooms last longer.
  3. As your amaryllis grows, quarter turn the pot every couple of days. This helps the stem to grow straight, which is more attractive and reduces the plant's likely to topple when those big flowers open.
  4. Too-tall amaryllis are usually the result of insufficient light. Place your plants where they’ll receive direct sunlight.
  5. To encourage faster sprouting, place your freshly potted amaryllis in a central part of the room, away from the window, to get it started. In winter, locations close to a window can be 10-15 degrees colder than the rest of the room and cooler temperatures slow growth. When sprouts starts, move your amaryllis close to the window; it needs strong light when it's actively growing.
  6. Some amaryllis produce leaves first, some produce a flower stalk first and some produce both at the same time. It's a matter of varietal genetics so should your amaryllis have foliage and no flower stalk yet, don't worry, this isn't grounds for concern.
  7. Amaryllis planted early in the season (Oct-Dec.) often take a little bit longer to sprout and bloom than those planted later (Jan-Mar.). Likewise, earlier planted bulbs often produce slightly taller flower stems. This last piece harbors a useful insight for those who often have too-tall amaryllis because of limitied light; plant later and you may get shorter flower stalks.
  8. Another timing tip: amaryllis bulbs are harvested in summer, shipped from growers and stored in our carefully controlled temperature and humidity room. Late planted amaryllis (January on) have been out of the ground for a number of months and the bulbs often shrink a little as they gradually lose some moisture. As a result, they may measure a bit smaller than when first delivered from the grower. This does not impact viability and these bulbs can be expected to produce the same number of stems and flowers as they would if planted weeks earlier, as the embryonic flowers are tucked inside the bulbs from the time they are harvested.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun outdoors, sunny window inside

Soil: Average soil

Depth: Leave top quarter of bulb exposed

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Garden beds in warm climates, showy indoor blooms anywhere

Tip: Choose a trio, with varied bloom times, for all winter color

GUIDE: Amaryllis Planting Guide

They Start Out looking Like This: