Ten years ago, when I placed a potted amaryllis bulb on my desk at work, no one seemed to know what it was. In my non-scientific poll of anyone who came by, I was astonished to find 75% of my co-workers couldn’t identify the big bulb.
Today, thanks in part to the popularity of easy-to-grow waxed amaryllis bulbs, I doubt that would happen. More people are figuring out how fun and easy it is to grow an amaryllis bulb for beautiful Christmas blooms.
How To Care for Amaryllis
By Thanksgiving or earlier, you can generally find amaryllis bulbs for sale at local garden centers and big box stores. They often come with a plastic pot and a compressed disk of potting soil. Occasionally, you can find just the bulbs for sale.
Always buy the biggest bulb you can find and inspect it to make sure there are no soft spots or signs of rot. You may notice green shoots emerging from the top, which means it’s ready to grow.
Plant your amaryllis bulb in a sturdy, heavy pot about one inch wider around than the widest part of your bulb. Fill the pot with well-draining potting soil and make sure it has a drainage hole. The pot should be deep enough to allow roots to grow. When planting, leave the top one-third of the bulb exposed.
Place your amaryllis bulb in a sunny location and water whenever the top one to two inches of soil feels dry. Like many tropical plants, amaryllis prefers moist soil and should never be left in standing water. Once flower buds form, move the plant out of direct sunlight to a location on the cooler side, which will help the flowers last longer.
Amaryllis Care After Blooming
After your amaryllis has bloomed, cut off the bloom stalk but leave the foliage so it continues to grow. Once a month, fertilize it with a general houseplant fertilizer.
In spring, once the possibility of frost has past, you can move your amaryllis plants outside and keep them growing in the same container. Bring them back inside well before any threat of frost in the fall.
How To Get an Amaryllis To Rebloom
If you want your amaryllis to rebloom for Christmas, plan for it to go dormant in early September. To do that, move it to a cool, dark location and stop watering it. As the foliage turns yellow, cut it off. Generally, amaryllis needs to be dormant for eight to 12 weeks before it begins to grow and flower again.
After it has been dormant, you may see green shoots again. At that point, move it back to a sunny location. Start watering it and it should bloom in four to six weeks, just as it did when you first bought it.
Can an Amaryllis Be Planted Outside?
Amaryllis bulbs, which are actually in the plant genus Hippeastrum, are usually grown as indoor plants. But they can survive outside where winter temperatures stay above freezing.
What About Waxed Amaryllis Bulbs?
Waxed amaryllis bulbs are one of the easiest ways to enjoy amaryllis blooms for the holidays. Set the bulb on a table and watch it grow. You don’t need to water them or do anything special to get them to produce flowers.
To prepare the waxed bulbs, growers cut off the bottom roots and insert a wire frame to allow the bulb to stand upright. Then the bulb is dipped in wax. When buying waxed bulbs, look for ones just beginning to show the flower buds. Once the amaryllis flowers have faded, you can throw the bulb away.
In some cases, it’s possible to get a waxed flower bulb to continue to grow after it has bloomed. To do this, carefully remove the wire base and all the wax, then plant the bulb as you would any other amaryllis bulb. Water it when dry. If it forms roots, it will likely grow and produce leaves. The following year, you can try to get it to bloom again.
Are Amaryllis Poisonous To Cats?
Yes. Amaryllis leaves and bulbs are poisonous to cats, dogs and humans if eaten. It’s generally a good practice to keep your pets away from all houseplants.