how to plant, grow & care for amaryllis
complete growing guide
Amaryllis is an indispensable part of winter and spring here at Perch Hill. From December right through until Easter, these plants deliver colour and pizazz, from the super-chunky and blousy varieties to ones that are as fine and delicate as you could hope for. The petals come in jolly reds, crimson-washed greens, rosy pinks and shades of white.
I force my amaryllis bulbs so they are flowering for Christmas, and I love making mini landscapes by top dressing with moss and lichen branches and adding a supportive nest made from willow – amaryllis needs its heavy flowers staked, so this is functional as well as beautiful. They are as festive as any bauble and more impressive than a poinsettia.
Browse our range of amaryllis and enjoy bumper-sized bulbs that will give you several flower spikes and flowers for over a month.
- Common name: Amaryllis
- Latin name: Hippeastrum
- Type: Tender Perennial Bulb
- Height: 30cm (1ft) to 90cm (3ft)
- TLC rating: Moderately Easy
- Aspect: Filtered Full Sun
- Planting position: Containers
- Suitable for pots: Yes
- Good for cut flowers: Yes
how to grow amaryllis
where to grow amaryllis
Soil type: Amaryllis need rich and exceptionally well-drained soil, so create a mix from 1 part well-rotted manure, 1 part horticultural grit or sand, and 2 parts leaf mould. Two parts good compost mixed with 1 part grit also does fine. Amaryllis have a tendency to rot, so good drainage is vital.
Aspect & position: Amaryllis need lots of light to flower, but it’s important to keep them out of harsh direct sunlight. Filtered, bright light is best.
Amaryllis is a tender bulb, so needs to be grown inside and remain frost free in the winter. But once the frosts are over and the nights no longer cold, they can be moved outside until the end of summer.
when to plant amaryllis
Amaryllis will be in flower 7-10 weeks from planting. They can be planted anytime from September to January but I tend to plant them in October for flowering at Christmas or early in the new year.
how to plant amaryllis
Before planting, hydrate the desiccated roots by soaking them in tepid tap water overnight. The easiest way to do this is to rest the base of the bulb on the rim of an appropriately sized jam jar so that all the roots (but not the bulb base), can sit in the water below.
Select a tight-fitting pot, with about 2½cm (1in) between the bulb and the side of the pot – the size of the pot will depend on the bulb, but make sure the depth is at least 30cm (1ft) to allow room for good root growth.
Large bulbs may have several flower spikes but for a really impressive display you can plant three bulbs in a pot together. It’s expensive the first time, but I have kept our bulbs for years, and they flower each year. If you plant more than one bulb in the pot, leave 3-4cm (1½in) between each bulb.
Plant the bulb in the pot with the shoulder of the bulb sitting a third above the surface of the compost. It’s the apex of the bulb (where the leaves emerge) that is the most vulnerable to rot and where water can seep in and decay the heart, so this part mustn’t sit wet on watering.
Planted so high, the whole thing is in danger of being top heavy so add support – either tap a cane into the pot and tie it into the stem, or use willow to make a nest-like support.
Place the pot in a light and well-ventilated spot, free from draughts – aim for about 20-22°C. A shelf above a radiator is ideal.
Keep the compost moist until a shoot appears and then water more frequently, about twice a week when the plant is growing. Water from the top using tepid tap water.
When the amaryllis is flowering, move the pot somewhere cooler if possible to prolong the display.
forcing amaryllis in water
You can also use a beautiful glass forcer made specifically for the purpose of forcing bulbs. Fill the forcer with water, enough to fill the bottom section of the vase, but not touching the bulb. The roots will grow down into the water.
Place the container in a warm, bright room (about 20-22°C), checking the water level daily. Keep it out of direct sunlight. Change the water every week or so. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to reuse these bulbs the following year, but it makes a wonderful seasonal display.
how to care for amaryllis
Once your amaryllis is growing, water from the top using tepid tap water and never let the plant sit in a saucer of water. Continue to water the plant after it’s finished flowering if you intend to store the bulb.
Feeding is essential. Use a liquid fertiliser twice a month when in flower. After flowering is completely over, continue to feed the plant for 6 weeks if you plan to store the bulb.
Amaryllis are tall and top-heavy plants. Almost all varieties will need to be staked or given some support to avoid them toppling over. You can tap a cane into the pot and tie the stem in to it. Or you can create a mini natural landscape, dressing the bottom with moss and lichen and adding a willow support.
As each flower fades, cut it off individually, leaving the others to flower. When every flower on one stalk is over, cut it off to just above the bulb nose. On our top quality bulbs, one or two more flowering stems should follow.
You should get two or three flowering stems in succession from each bulb, but once the flowering is completely over, continue to feed and water the plant for 6 weeks then move the pot somewhere cool (around 13-15ºC is best) for a period of 10 weeks (this is when the buds are formed - a frost free greenhouse or cool room is ideal). After the dormant period, re-pot in fresh compost, trying to minimise root disturbance. Bring into the warm and start watering again and they will flower in about 7-10 weeks. For most home gardeners the 10 week cool period will last throughout autumn, so saved plants can rarely be brought into growth until mid-winter and will therefore flower in early spring, rather than Christmas.
Bulbs older than two years will produce offset bulblets. These may be left attached to the mother and re-potted with her, creating an amazing show after 2-3 years, but it's best to remove them carefully just before you replant and put them in their own individual pots. These little bulbs will take a couple of years before producing their first flower, but it will be a proud moment when they do.
- Depending on when you planted your bulbs, you could enjoy amaryllis flowers through early spring.
- If flowering is over for the plant, continue to feed and water, then store the bulb for the following year.
- Stand plants outside and continue to feed and water for 6 weeks after flowering.
- Plan which amaryllis bulbs you’d like to plant in autumn and winter.
- Force amaryllis bulbs for a Christmas display.
- Bring amaryllis bulbs into growth for spring colour.
- Continue to feed and water amaryllis in flower.
pests, diseases & common issues
why won't my amaryllis flower?
Amaryllis need plenty of light to flower. They need to be kept out of harsh, direct light, but if they are too shaded it will impact flowering.
If you have no leaves and no flowers, it could be a sign that overwatering has led to bulb rot. Or, if this is a consecutive year of growing the same bulb, it could be that it didn’t store enough energy in its dormant period to flower or recieve the right temperatures to initiate flower bud formation or growth.
how do you keep amaryllis from falling over?
Some amaryllis can reach over 60cm (2ft) tall and they can be very top heavy. Stake them by tapping a cane into the compost and tying in the stem. Or create a small structure from willow to help support them.
why does my amaryllis have no leaves?
If you have amaryllis belladonna growing in the garden, its flowers appear before the leaves.
why is my amaryllis bulb shrinking?
After a year or two of reblooming, the amaryllis bulb can lose vigour and shrinkage is a sign of this. Don’t force them into flower in consecutive years and they will naturally revert back.
why does my amaryllis have bugs?
If you leave your amaryllis pots outside over summer, they may be of interest to slugs and snails.
frequently asked questions
are amaryllis poisonous to cats, dogs or other pets?
Yes, amaryllis is toxic to cats as well as other pets.
can an amaryllis bulb be reused?
Yes, it’s possible for amaryllis to reflower perennially if you follow the instructions for storing them through their dormant period.
can amaryllis be planted outside?
Hippeastrum (commonly known as amaryllis) are tender plants but they can be stood outside during summer.
The true amaryllis – Amaryllis belladonna, also known as the belladonna lily – is a completely different plant which is suitable for growing outside.
what soil do I need for amaryllis?
Amaryllis needs rich and exceptionally well-drained compost, so create a mix from 1 part well-rotted manure, 1 part horticultural grit or sand, and 2 parts leaf mould. Two parts good compost mixed with 1 part grit also does fine. Amaryllis have a tendency to rot, so good drainage is vital.
what fertiliser should I use for amaryllis?
A liquid fertiliser is ideal for amaryllis, which you should use twice a month when in flower. Then continue to use after flowering for 6 weeks to feed the bulb.
are amaryllis fragrant?
I don’t find amaryllis have much scent, though some people detect a mild sweetness. Amaryllis belladonna is the exception – this true amaryllis has a mellow fragrance.
can amaryllis grow in water?
Yes, you can force amaryllis in water, ideally using a glass forcer vase suited to the job.
are amaryllis lilies?
No, the Hippeastrum genus (the true name of what we commonly refer to as ‘amaryllis’) is separate to the Lilium genus.
how to cut & arrange amaryllis
Before you arrange them, insert a cane into their hollow stem – it can be a bamboo or green cane, or straight sticks (e.g. cornus or hazel) from the garden. This sounds like a palaver but it will double their vase life. Without internal support, the weight of the huge flower tends to break the stem as it ages. They will crash in half and the flowers will bruise. Stuffed with a cane, the stem can't bend.
When you push in the cane, it should jam just below the flower. With most stems, it will be held inside. Some have a wider diameter and the cane plops out as you lift the stem to put it into the vase. Just add a plug of cotton wool to hold the cane in place.
The cut stem ends also tend to split and curl like pigs' tails. This looks ugly and the stem will gradually collapse, so twist a thick rubber band around the very bottom to prevent cracks forming.
Get more inspiration for displaying your flowers with my guide to creating a centrepiece: