Growing amaryllis indoors allows you to enjoy stunning blooms for Christmas or during the winter months. It is one of the easiest garden decorating projects that you can do to use Christmas plants for the holidays.
Forcing amaryllis bulbs gives you a spectacular houseplant, and the bulbs are a great gift for a gardening friend. They are ideal to introduce kids to gardening because they grow so quickly.
All you need is some soil and water, a sunny windowsill, and a little bit of patience. Keep reading to learn more about amaryllis care indoors.
I ended up with an amaryllis bulb after a Yankee swap party last Christmas and planted it early in February to add to my collection of indoor plants. It was not long before the bulb was in full bloom.
The flower stems grew quickly and the plant became the focal point in a room in no time at all.
Having a splash of color indoors in the middle of winter was such a treat. Amaryllis is a good choice for forcing. it looks very pretty grouped with frosty fern, with its snowy white tips.
Amaryllis is considered a true member of the flower bulbs family, as compared to corms, rhizomes and tubers.
Brush up on your knowledge of amaryllis with these fun facts:
- Botanical name: amaryllis
- Genus: hippeastrum sp.
- Family: amaryllidaceae
- Type: bulb
- Native to: South Africa
- Mythology roots: Legend says that amaryllis flowers helped the goddess Amaryllis win the heart of Alteo.
- Meaning: Amaryllis represents love, beauty, success and strength.
- Common names: belladonna lily, naked ladies, Jersey lily, amaryllo
- The largest growers of amaryllis bulbs is the Netherlands, which produces 15 million bulbs a year in massive greenhouses.
Growing amaryllis indoors
For those that live in hardiness zones 9 and warmer, you can grow amaryllis outdoors in full sun. For those in colder zones, amaryllis are grown in containers and forced into bloom, normally in winter when other gardening has gone to bed.
If you like to grow flowering houseplants that give you spectacular blooms in the dead of winter, growing an amaryllis indoors is a great way to bring the outdoors into your home.
These tips will help you get the most out of your bulbs.
Choosing amaryllis bulbs
Once growing, an amaryllis houseplant has very tall flower stems. They can reach up to 2 feet tall for some varieties. The flower heads are large and dramatic – as much as 10 inches wide!
However, in order to get these tall stems and beautiful flowers, you need healthy and BIG bulbs. The size of the bulb is a good indication of the size of the blooms it will produce.
Large bulbs may also produce more flowers on the stems. One bulb normally grows two stems, with each stem giving you anywhere from 2-5 flowers.
Choose large healthy bulbs that have no blemishes or mold showing.
If you have bulbs stored from a previous year’s plants, they might have gotten wet and this can cause mold. Inspect them carefully and discard any showing decay.
Should you plant amaryllis bulbs in soil or water?
Although some like growing amaryllis bulbs indoors in water, I prefer to plant them in soil. This reduces the risk of fungal damage forming on the bulb.
When to plant amaryllis bulbs
The planting time depends on whether you wish to have the flowers blooming for Christmas or later in the winter.
Forcing amaryllis for Christmas blooms requires that you plant the bulbs in early to mid-October. They make a lovely Christmas table decoration.
If you would like to enjoy the flowers later in the winter, plant the bulb around Christmas time or early January. I planted mine in February for late March blooms.
Planting them later gives you a nice head start on spring gardening!
If you want the best of both worlds, plant bulbs every two weeks starting in October until February. That way, you will have a constant pop of color for the holidays and right through until spring!
Containers for forcing amaryllis bulbs
This is one situation when bigger is not always better! Plant your bulb in a container that is about 1 1/2 inches wider than the width of the bulb itself.
Even though amaryllis grows on massive stems and has large blooms, it does not need a large pot. Be sure the pot drains well, though.
Choose a heavy container made of terracotta, ceramic or glass. Amaryllis flowers are heavy and you want a container that won’t tip over from the weight.
Picking a smallish container allows the bulb to become slightly pot bound and makes forcing easier and more reliable.
Planting an amaryllis bulb
Soaking the bulb for a few hours in warm water before planting will hydrate the roots and give the growing process a head start.
Fill the bottom of your pot with a few inches of potting soil. Place the bulb, pointed end facing upward, about halfway up the container and add soil around the sides of it, allowing the top third of the bulb to stick out of the soil.
If you are planting several bulbs in one pot, space them about an inch apart and keep the same 1 1/2 inch pot margin so as not to crowd them too much.
Be sure to add a piece of bamboo or other type of stake on one side it the bulb. The plant will need it once the blooms start to open.
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Amaryllis care indoors
After planting, water the soil well, making sure that the excess moisture drains from the bottom of the pot.
One of the main things to keep in mind is that to force amaryllis indoors, you need the right temperature to get rapid growth. Keep the plant in a room that has a temperature of at least 70 ° F (21 ° C.)
Make sure that you don’t place the bulb next to a drafty window or door. Sudden cold drafts will damage the plant.
Hold off on watering until you see some green growth from the top of the bulb. Then water regularly when the soil starts to dry out. The plant likes to be evenly moist.
Avoid allowing the bulb to sit in wet soil, and also avoid watering directly onto the crown of the bulb. As the bulb grows, more roots will form, so it may dry out more often.
It’s a good idea to rotate the pot every few days to help keep the stalk straight. Once the flowers appear, move the pot to a spot with indirect sunlight to help keep the blooms alive longer.
In no time at all, you’ll have a beautiful display of flowers to enjoy.
Amaryllis forcing timeline
One of the questions that I am often asked is “how long does it take to force an amaryllis bulb?”
It depends on the variety of your amaryllis, but blooming should happen for most bulbs 6-8 weeks after planting. The flowers are very long-lasting.
If your bulb gives you two stems, the second flower stem will develop later than the first, and thus bloom later, too.
Since the blooms don’t open at the same time, you will get a fairly long flowering period to enjoy the gorgeous blooms.
This is a perfect garden project to do with children. Kids are quite impatient and have a hard time waiting for their plants to grow.
They won’t have to wait long with these bulbs! There were some days my bulb seemed to grow about 5 inches in one day!
I planted my bulb on February 6 and it was blooming in all its glory on March 17!
Growing my amaryllis bulb was so easy and rewarding. In no time I was able to enjoy one of the most brilliant flowers that can be grown indoors.
With mature bulbs, you may notice bulbets, or baby bulbs growing along side of the mother bulbs. These can be used to start new plants and reduce crowding in the main pot.
Offsets take from 2-5 years to bloom, depending on their size. Larger offsets bloom sooner.
The best time to remove the offsets is in late fall. These baby bulbs will produce plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant.
Amaryllis pests and diseases
If you start with healthy bulbs, pests and diseases are not much of a problem with amaryllis.
Other conditions are fungus gnat larvae, which cause deformed leaves, and soft bulb rot, caused by overwatering.
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Care of amaryllis after blooming
After the blooms on my bulb finished flowering it was spring here in NC, so I took the bulb out of the pot and planted it in my zone 7 b test garden. I had no real hopes that it would bloom outdoors after our cold and snowy winter last year.
When I was tending the garden this spring, I found a plant that needed moving. I thought it was a gladiolus at first.
To my delight, after three big snow storms, I discovered that it had survived the winter and bloomed again in the garden that year!
Amaryllis are tropical and normally only grow in zones 9-11. What a treat to see it growing in my garden!
The colors are a bit less vibrant because it was planted in full sun but still a glorious plant.
To grow the forced bulb in the garden after forcing, move the pot outside after the last expected frost date and plant directly in garden soil.
The ideal placement is in a location that gets full sun to part shade. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer to nourish next year’s flowers.
If you live in zones colder than 9, you will need to dig up the bulb in the fall and store it, since it will only over-winter in zones 9-11.
Can you force amaryllis bulbs another year?
It is possible to do this, but it’s likely that you will only get blooms for a few years. It’s not a good idea to try and force the same bulb to flower again more that once every three years.
Forcing an amaryllis bulb weakens it. It is better to plant it outdoors to allow it to return to its normal growth cycle.
If you decide to store your bulbs for another year, keep them in a dark and cool place with a temperature of about 40-50° F. A fridge works well but don’t let the bulb freeze.
Amaryllis is the perfect plant to try if you’ve never grown bulbs or houseplants before because it’s so easy. Give it a go in your home this year.
Where to buy amaryllis bulbs for forcing indoors
Check your local big box hardware stores or Walmart. I also find amaryllis bulb forcing kits at department stores and TJ Maxx around the holidays.
Some varieties to look for are:
- Flamenco queen – large bulbs with red and cream coloring
- Picasso – cream flowers with bright red margins
- Red Lion – deep red, perfect for Christmas
- Bellisima – big bulbs in an exquisite pink color
- White Christmas – as the name suggests, it has pure white blooms
Many online vendors have the bulbs for sale:
- Buy amaryllis bulbs on Etsy.
- Amazon has many colors of amaryllis bulbs to force.
- You can also purchase bulb forcing kits on Amazon.
- Holland Farms also has bulb forcing kits for sale.
Admin note: this post for growing amaryllis indoors first appeared on the blog in April of 2013. I have updated the post to add all new photos, a printable growing tips card, and a video for you to enjoy.
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- 1 Amaryllis bulb
- Pot for bulb
- Water soluble plant fertilizer
- Bamboo stake
- Watering can
- Choose healthy bulbs with no evidence of decay or mold.
- Choose a pot about 1 1/2 inches wider than the diameter of your bulb.
- Place a few inches of soil, add the bulb and fill almost to the pot. Leave the top of the bulb exposed.
- Add a bamboo stake to support the blooms later.
- Water the soil well and then wait for growth to show before watering again.
- Place the plant near a bright east, south, or west facing window.
- Once growth shows, water to keep evenly moist.
- Fertilize with half strength water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 week.
- A heat mat under the pot will aid in getting the bulb to grow if growth is slow.
- Rotate the pot every few days so the stem grows straight.
- It will take 6-8 weeks for the bulb to flower.
- Once flowering, move to indirect light, to prolong bloom time.