Friday, December 16, 2011


I was reminded today of just how much I enjoy planting an amaryllis bulb this time of year. And because of that warm and fuzzy feeling, I decided to revisit these lovely bulbs and reiterate how to plant them and how to care for the plant that emerges from them.

Now I know it’s a little late to be planting one in time for Christmas, but no matter. If you plant an amaryllis bulb now, it will bloom sometime in January, which, if you live in an area like mine where the outdoor world is devoid of any greenery this time of year, the bold and beautiful flowers of this plant will be a very welcome sight come next month.

Amaryllis, whose botanical name is Hippeastrum, originates from the tropical regions of South America. And because of those warm-loving ancestral roots, I don’t need to tell you that it can be grown outdoors if you live in a warm area (lucky you). But if you reside in an area like mine (unlucky me), where winters are long and cold, you’ll be growing these bulbs indoors. I suppose being able to grow them somewhere is better than not being able to grow them at all. (Hey, that was a “the glass is half full” type of statement. Does that make me an optimist?)

There are two ways to grow an amaryllis bulb: 1) in soil and 2) in clay pellets (hydroculture). Actually, there is a third way: growing amaryllis in water. There are kits available for sale for this method, and they include an opaque plastic container, some river rocks (or some such medium) and an amaryllis bulb. But I don’t really like this method because a) you can’t see the level of water in the container, so it’s easy to put too much water in it, which will lead to part of the bulb being immersed, which in turn may cause it to rot and b) I just don’t like the idea of growing any bulb directly in water. If you’re going to eliminate soil, use the hydroculture method, which replaces soil with clay pellets. So I won’t write about the ‘growing in water’ method. If you like this style, you’re basically on your own. Not that I mind it. If it works for you, go for it. I just won’t encourage it.


So with all that being said, below is some information on how to grow an amaryllis bulb in soil and in hydroculture.

Growing Amaryllis In Soil

Plant the bulb up to its neck in quality soil that is sterile, light and very well-draining; leave about 1/3 to 1/4 of the bulb’s top exposed. Make sure you use a container that has drainage holes, is wide enough to allow 1” to 1½” of space around the bulb and large enough to accommodate the extensive root system that will develop. In addition, since amaryllis eventually becomes very top- heavy, the pot should be weighty enough to support this or plant and pot will one day tip over.

Pat the soil down to make sure that the bulb is snug and secure. Water thoroughly and place the plant where it will receive indirect light and where temperatures are between 21°C (70°F) to 23°C (75°F). Do not water again until you see obvious signs of growth, which generally take place in about three weeks. Once new growth emerges, water thoroughly whenever necessary. Keep the soil moderately moist. Do not allow it to dry out completely and be careful of over-watering.

The flower stalk is usually the first to appear but it’s not unusual for leaves to grow before or even during the initial stage. As a general rule, the period from potting to flowering takes place between 7 – 10 weeks. Depending on the size of your bulb, you may be enjoy anywhere from 4 – 6 flowers. And if you’ve picked up a top grade bulb, you’ll get to do it all over again with a second flower stalk, maybe even a third. Keep stakes on hand to stabilize top-heavy plants. Rotate the plant every now and then to make sure that it grows straight. Remove each flower as it fades. It’s that simple.

Amaryllis And Hydroculture

If you want to ditch the soil method, try growing this bulb in hydroculture. Amaryllis bulbs are wonderful candidates for this alternative system; they adapt easily to the soilless method and grow wonderfully in clay pellets. In addition, with hydroculture there is no danger of rot since there is no possibility of over-watering (as long as you keep the water level below the bulb).

First, rinse the bulb’s roots free of any soil and remove or cut away dead or damaged roots. Pot in a glass container to be able to see the water level or in a hydroculture kit that includes a water level indicator. In both cases, plant the bulb the same way you would in soil, leaving about 1/3 to 1/4 of the bulb’s top exposed. Add water to just below the bulb (a water level indicator will indicate how much to add), place the plant in indirect light where temperatures are between 21°C (70°F) to 23°C (75°F) and wait for signs of growth.

When the plant begins to grow, the level of water will decrease as it’s consumed. Allow it to empty completely and then replenish. Remove flowers as they fade and rotate the plant once in awhile to keep it growing straight. You may want to add some river rocks on top of the clay pellets to add some weight. Unlike soil, clay pellets are very lightweight and a full grown, top-heavy plant can easily fall over.

No matter what method you choose to grow your amaryllis, one thing’s for sure: once the blooming period is over, there’s no need to throw out the bulb, which can be encouraged to bloom year after year. If you are interested in knowing how to do this, click here to visit another article on amaryllis care. Scroll towards the bottom until you reach the subtitle: “Getting Your Amaryllis To Bloom Again”

And finally, don’t forget to take photos of every stage of development as your plant prepares to bloom; it’s quite remarkable.

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