How to care for your Christmas amaryllis

Posted on Nov 30 2017 in Backyard

by B. Rosie Lerner

Amaryllis is a popular holiday gift plant, but it may have the lucky recipient wondering about its proper care.

Amaryllis is a tender bulb that won’t survive outdoors even in the mildest of Indiana winters. But it can be grown indoors to provide a dramatic show of color during dreary winter months. The showy flowers range from crimson, scarlet, rose, lavender, white or bi-colored combinations. Though each plant may produce only one cluster of two to four blooms, individual blossoms can reach up to 8 inches in diameter at their peak.

Amaryllis is commonly sold as a potted plant in full bloom or as a bulb kit. For plants already in bloom, the flowers will last longer if you keep the plant in a cool location around 65 degrees F.

If you receive an amaryllis bulb kit, you just might have blooms in time for Valentine’s Day! The bulbs will have been rested and pre-chilled by the greenhouse grower so that they will be ready to grow and bloom at home. Plant bulbs in pots that are only a little larger in diameter than the bulbs themselves. Be sure pots provide drainage so excess water can escape. Pour a layer of good-quality potting soil mix into the bottom of the container and place the bulb so that the pointed end is facing up. Water thoroughly to establish good bulb-to-soil contact. Then place in a sunny windowsill in a cool location, preferably 55-65 degrees F. The plants should bloom in 6-8 weeks.

After the flowers fade you can keep amaryllis as a houseplant to re-bloom next year. Cut the faded flower stalk off at its base, place near a sunny window, and water and fertilize as you would other houseplants. After all danger of frost is past in the spring, you can plunge the pot into the soil outdoors in an east- or west-facing location.

Late in summer, gradually cut back on watering until the leaves fade completely and the soil is dry. At this time, the bulb should be dormant. Dig the pot out of the ground and bring it back indoors. Keep the bulb in its pot and store in a cool, dark location about 40-55 degrees F.

After about two months of rest, water the soil and set the pot in a sunny window and resume normal care.

Did you know?

Amaryllises are native to Peru and South Africa. Its name is from Greek Amarullis, a name for a shepherd girl in pastoral poetry, based on the Greek word which means “to sparkle.”

Rosie Lerner is the Purdue Extension consumer horticulturist and a consumer of Tipmont REMC. Have a question about gardening? Use the form to send it to us. Or, questions about gardening issues may be sent to: “Ask Rosie,” Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224, or