How to Grow Amaryllis

An amaryllis in bloom makes your home look like springtime in the middle of winter. Here’s how to force its bloom and keep it growing for years.

Leave about a third of the amaryllis bulb above the soil — foliage will sprout from its neck. Image: The Crocheted Bookmark

Amaryllis is a breath of spring when Christmas bells ring. This tropical plant often enters your life as a holiday gift ready to pop, then shoots up and sprays color from loopy blooms.

A little care will enable amaryllis bulbs to blossom year after year. So, you can regift an amaryllis next Christmas and share the cheer.

How to force the bulb

Amaryllis likes to grow in cozy pots filled with well-drained soil. Because the plant hails from the tropics, you don’t need to freeze it before forcing (unlike some bulbs, such as tulips.) Start the forcing process about 6-8 weeks before you want blooms.

  • Select a pot about 1-2 inches wider than the bulb.
  • Place a pottery shard over the drainage hole (which keeps soil in and lets water out), and fill halfway with potting soil. You can mix ½ teaspoon of all-purpose fertilizer into the soil to give the plant extra oomph. Make sure the fertilizer doesn’t touch the bulb directly, which can burn it.
  • Spread out bulb roots and place on the soil.
  • Pack soil snugly around the bulb, leaving about 1/3 of the bulb — its “neck” — above the soil line.  Foliage will sprout from the neck.
  • Water thoroughly — once! — and place in a cool (55-65 degree F), dark place until you see the first signs of growth, such as foliage and stem. Water again only when the top of the soil feels dry, but no more than once a week. Too much water will rot the bulb.

Growing amaryllis inside

  • When the first flower buds appear, in about 5-7 weeks, relocate to a sunny spot and moisten soil.
  • Rotate pot often so the plant doesn’t grow lopsided as it leans toward the sun. 
  • Stake the stem if the plant seems wobbly. Be careful not to pierce the bulb.
  • When the plant blooms, move it away from the sun to a cooler spot, which will extend the show.
  • Water when dry.

Care after the blooms are gone

  • Deadhead wilted blooms at the lump at the end of the blossom. When all blooms are spent, cut back the stem with a sharp knife until it’s about 2 inches from the soil. Retain the foliage, which will continue to feed the bulb.
  • Place in normal light and water when needed throughout spring.
  • If you place your amaryllis outdoors during summer, keep it well-watered and in the pot. Return indoors before the first frost. Cut back dead or yellow foliage to the top of the bulb.
  • Force the bulb to go dormant by placing it in a cool, dark place for 6-8 weeks. If you want to regift the bulb, dress up the pot (it’s better to keep it in the same pot). If you want to enjoy another blooming season yourself, begin the process again.