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.)

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 good strong sunlight.

Soil Prep

Like almost all bulbs, amaryllis grow best in 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, shriveling and attempts to sprout without any soil to draw nutrients from. (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 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; excess moisture can bulb rot. Choose a container with a bottom drainage hole to let excess water run off; this helps avoids soggy soil. If your container doesn't have a drainage hole, water lightly to avoid pooling at the bottom of the pot.

Fill the container about one quarter to one third full of soil, position your bulb with the pointy end facing up and add more soil until just the top 1/4 of the bulb is exposed. Bury most, but not all of the bulb. Amaryllis do best when their “shoulders” are above the soil line. Water the soil to settle it around your bulb. Keep the water out of the center of the bulb where it can pool in the recessed areas and promote rot.

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. While waiting for initial sprouts, keep the soil very (very!) lightly moist, never wet. It’s better to err on the too-dry side than on the too-wet one.

When planting outdoors, position your bulb with the pointy end facing upwards and bury to just below the neck area. Don't cover the top where the sprout will appear with soil. Water once to settle the soil and refrain from watering again until you see growth appear. Keep in mind that until there is top growth, your bulb has little need for water. Give it just enough to wake it up.

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.

If growing outdoors, provide enough water to keep the soil lightly moist. Overwatering can lead to bulb rot.

When blooming has wrapped up, trim off the 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 may skip a flowering season while it settles in, or bloom that first year at an out of sync time. After that, your plant will resume a flowering schedule that’s normal for amaryllis, i.e. each spring.

Interested in learning how to get your amaryllis to rebloom? Here's the inside scoop: How to Get Your Amaryllis to Rebloom

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 largely a matter of genetics. Should your bulb have foliage and no flower stalk yet, don't worry. Give it time.
  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 is a useful tidbit for those who often have too-tall amaryllis because of limited light. Plant later and you may get shorter flower stalks.
  8. Note: Amaryllis are graded and sized at harvest. If held out of the ground for a number of months bulbs may dry a little and shrink slightly. This is normal and to be expected; it will not effect flowering. 
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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: