Thursday, May 17, 2012

Amaryllis – Don’t let your bulbs die

By Sandy Grimwade

The amaryllis you bought, or received as a present, has flowered magnificently, and you would like to see it blooming next year, and for years after. A few simple steps will ensure that your amaryllis will thrive and multiply.

Firstly, after the blooms have faded, cut the bloom stalk with a sharp knife just above where it enters the bulb. It may “bleed” a little, but it will soon dry up and die.

Like all bulbs, next year’s flowers are formed in this year’s bulb, and it is important to make sure that you have strong leaf growth over the summer so that a large bulb will develop. If you are planning to keep the bulb in a pot, repot it in a large pot with good potting soil. The bulbs you buy in the store are usually in small pots and in a medium with poor nutrition. Alternatively, you can plant the bulbs outside after the danger of frost is past. It is better to plant in a partially shaded spot, as amaryllis leaves can burn in the full sun of July (though this does not seem to do them much harm). I plant mine in the shade of my tomato plants. Make sure that there is plenty of compost in the soil. Whether planting indoors in a pot or outdoors in the ground, the bulb should be only 50-60% covered with soil. The top of the bulb needs to be well clear of the soil surface to avoid rotting problems. When you are replanting the bulb you may find that small bulblets have formed round the sides. These can be carefully removed and planted separately. They will form new flowering bulbs in a year or two.

Now is the time for patience. Make sure that your bulbs are kept watered and that the leaves grow tall and strong. Once the weather turns cold in October, but before any serious frost, it is time to dig up the bulbs. Again, you may find small bulblets have formed and these should be carefully separated from the main bulb. With a sharp knife cut of the leaves about 1 inch from the top of the bulbs and cut off the roots. The bulbs must now rest in a cool dry place for at least 6 weeks. This is vital if you want the bulbs to flower well in the spring. I leave mine on newspaper in the garden shed until just before the winter holidays.

Now you can repot the bulbs in potting mixture in pots just large enough for the bulb. Bulbs of 2½  inches in diameter or more are very likely to flower. Several smaller bulbs can be potted in a “nursery pot” where they can grow, but probably will not flower. Again, plant the bulbs shallowly, and water from below.

In 2 – 3 months, depending mostly on the temperature they are kept at, the bulbs will flower. Now you can repeat the process. You will be amazed how the bulbs will multiply up and you will soon have plenty to give as presents to your friends.


  1. This is really great information. What do I do if I want the bulb to bloom in the winter? How do I treat it over the summer?

    1. It takes 6 - 8 weeks after repotting for most amaryllis to bloom if you keep them at a normal house temperature of 70 deg F. You can get them to bloom a bit faster if you keep them warmer. You would need to dig up the bulbs and start their rest period 12 - 14 weeks before you want the blooms. If you want blooms in January that would mean digging up the bulbs in September. This should work fine if your bulbs have grown strongly over the summer. Personally, I prefer not to force it.