Ask a Master Gardener: When to Plant Amaryllis Bulbs?

Happy Halloween! I admit, I shuddered a bit to see Target being transformed into a Christmas wonderland this week, but at the same time, it was a good reminder: time to plant amaryllises! This edition of Ask a Master Gardener attempts to demystify what is admittedly a fairly easy process—it just requires some planning.

Q: When should I plant amaryllis bulbs to have blooms around the holidays?

A: Now!

Okay, that’s it, next question. Just kidding. Amaryllis bulbs take around 6-8 weeks to be “forced” to bloom, but in my experience that timeframe can differ quite a bit. Is your house a bit on the cool side, like mine? It may take longer than 8 weeks.

If you want blooms on December 25, Amaryllis bulbs should be started this week. If you’re not too fussy about the actual timing of the bloom, then start them anytime during the month of November. It’s not like you’d be sad to have a giant red flower blooming in your house in January.

I’ve been growing Amaryllis bulbs for many years, mostly because it is rather simple. The hardest part is remembering to start them.

I planted mine this weekend, so I put together a photo tutorial for you.

amaryllis supplies

 

 

First, gather your stuff. I am giving away 3 of the 4 bulbs I planted to family members, so I used 4 pots. To grow a single bulb, the pot should be just a little bigger than the bulb itself—these little brown ones are 6 inches high by 6 inches in diameter, just about perfect.

I’ve also grown 3 bulbs together in one larger pot (see the blooming photos from last year). Pots can be a little bigger than this, but if you go smaller you could end up with a top-heavy flower.

amaryllis pot hole

 

 

 

Pots should always, always, have drainage holes, and this is especially true for amaryllis bulbs. They don’t take up a ton of water so it can be easy to overwater them and then you risk rot. I have made this mistake before.

I like to put a shard of old broken pottery over the hole at the bottom just to keep things slightly neater.

 

 

amaryllis grasping

 

 

 

To start, fill the pot about one fourth to one third full of potting soil.

Make a nice well in the center of the soil.

Grasp your bulb so that the roots hang down into the well and the top sticks out a bit above the pot.

 

 

 

 

amaryllis in dirt

 

 

 

Using your other hand, fill in with potting soil and pat gently into place. Approximately half the bulb can and should be sticking up above the surface of the soil.

Give it a good soaking of water, until the water starts to run out the bottom of the pot.

Dump excess water out of your catchment tray after it’s done.

amaryllis final

 

 

 

 

If you wish, put a decorative mulch on your pot.

I’ve used a variety of things for this, but this year I’m using some shredded wood packing material that was in a box of some plants I had shipped to me this summer.

Blooming Amaryllis

 

 

 

The bulb needs bright, indirect light, so figure out where you want to place it during the long waiting game.

Water sparingly, always checking the surface of the soil to see if it’s dried out before adding more.

Within a few weeks, your bulb should send up a thick green stalk. As it gets bigger, the stalk may require staking, especially as the flower gets closer to blooming.

Amaryllis bulbs can be saved and reused from year to year, but it’s not simply a matter of keeping them alive. They will grow lots of foliage after blooming, and this is the time to fertilize them regularly.

Then, in the late summer, they need to be dried, put somewhere cool or cold for 8-10 weeks to trick them into thinking it’s winter. To be honest, I have tried a handful of times and never successfully saved an amaryllis bulb and gotten it to rebloom. If you want to try it, this is a good tutorial.

Good luck with your indoor bulb experiments this winter!

Do you have some late fall gardening questions? Ask them in the comments below! We’ll check in and answer as many questions as we can for the rest of this week. If we don’t get to yours, you can Ask a Master Gardener via our online form, or call the Yard and Garden Line at (612) 301-7590.

Other helpful resources:

 

Jennifer Rensenbrink is a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener for Hennepin County. She grows native plants, vegetables and fruit in her south Minneapolis yard. You can follow her gardening adventures on Instagram.

To learn more, join a webinar or workshop...

7 Comments

  1. Linda Dvorak on November 7, 2022 at 5:17 am

    Great step-by-step tutorial! Remember, a bit of color in January is wonderful!

    • MSHS on November 7, 2022 at 6:48 pm

      Excellent! Glad you found it useful. We love Jennifer’s pics – helpful, right? And, yes, three cheers for colorful winter blooms, couldn’t agree more!

  2. Stan Hooper on November 7, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    We have had success re-blooming Amaryllis for several years, just by putting them in a dark place (doesn’t have to be a blackout) that is cool. They stay in their pots during their hibernation. Our dark space becomes a little warmer in the Spring and isn’t quite as dark, so that’s when the new, green spike shows itself. We have Amaryllis in early summer that way, keeping them on the deck where they get bright light but not much full sun. I am guessing that if we put the bulb and pot inside a fabric black cloth where the cool spot is that might be darker enough to keep the plant dormant until November, but it’s fun to have them in the early summer.

    • MSHS on November 7, 2022 at 6:59 pm

      Oooh, early summer amaryllis blooms! The flowers are really stunning any time of year – fun to enjoy them on your deck in the warmer weather. Do you overwinter them in a basement or garage?

  3. (Mr) Gale Kerns on November 7, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    I do much the same as above. I stop watering in August and cut back the dry foliage in early September. We also have a modestly dark place in our cool garage. I leave the plants in their original pot. Sometime in November I repot the plants and anticipate blooming in January. They will usually rebloom for several years.

    • MSHS on November 7, 2022 at 6:55 pm

      Great tips – thanks, Gale. Sounds like you’re a real dahlia whisperer. Just a couple more months until another round of blooms… enjoy!

    • Jennifer R on November 7, 2022 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks for the tip! I’m inspired to try again this year with saving my amaryllis bulbs.

Leave a Comment