When we think about Christmas flowers, amaryllis is often one of the first to come to mind. Despite the tropical appeal of amaryills, winter is when you’re most likely to see them. They’re very easy to grow, and they offer a beautiful reminder of spring in the middle of a Powell River winter. There’s another bonus, too; with proper care, amaryllis bulbs can last for years!
What is Amaryllis?
Chances are you’ve only ever heard it called amaryllis, but technically it’s not even amaryllis at all. The correct name is actually hippeastrum. Both hippeastrum and amaryllis are from the same family of plants, but they have a few differences. The misclassification wasn’t resolved until the 1980s, and since people had gone with “amaryllis” for years, that’s what most folks still call it.
Types of Amaryllis
Hippeastrum, what we call amaryllis, has 90 species and over 600 different cultivars in countless colours. There are many exceptionally beautiful varieties. We love the classic Mount Blanc, with its giant star-shaped blooms, similar in shape to the popular Belladonna lily. Red Lion Amaryllis is a stunning classic red choice. Comet and Prancer, from the Santa’s Reindeer line, features striking red and white striping, and Vixen features rich burgundy petals, with contrasting white stamens.
We also carry waxed amaryllis bulbs in our plant nursery. Waxed amaryllis is one of the easiest amaryllis options to grow. It doesn’t need water or soil, really! The bulbs contain all the nutrients they need to grow. The pretty wax coating helps contain their energy and keeps them from drying out. They look beautiful just sitting alone on your counter, in a glass vase, or even nestled into other seasonal decorations. They’re really the easiest care amaryllis available, and they make fantastic gifts!
How to Grow Amaryllis in a Pot
If this is your first year growing an amaryllis plant, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Great blooms start with a great bulb. When you are looking to purchase a bulb, look for a big one that’s a bit heavier than the rest. A larger, heavier bulb will bloom more, and produce stronger blossoms.
Once you’ve picked a bulb, it’s time to pot it up. You’ll definitely want to choose a pot with larger drainage holes, as amaryllis can rot if they get too wet. Amaryllis are a little different than other bulbs; they don’t like to be covered up. Only the bottom 1/2 or 1/3 of the bulb should be covered with well-draining soil, and the rest should stay exposed above the soil line.
Amaryllis come from warm southern climates, so they love lots of sunlight. If you can, put your amaryllis in a bright south-facing window. They are so desperate for the sun that they’ll reach towards the window, so its a good idea to turn the pot every few days to keep it growing as straight as possible.
When they’re just starting, you want to be careful with watering your bulb. Giving it a good soak, and then allowing it to drain, will be enough to get it started. Once you see the green shoots popping up, you can start watering it a little more frequently. Don’t overdo it, though—make sure the surface of the soil dries between watering.
How to Grow Amaryllis in Water
You can also grow amaryllis in water. You’ll need a vase (there are actually special vases designed just for this purpose), some pretty gravel, marbles, or pebbles, and your bulb. Fill the bottom of your vase with about 5-10 cm of pebbles or marbles, and then gently set your amaryllis bulb on top of the pebble layer. Slowly pour water into your vase until it is just below the bottom of the bulb, just touching the roots. With this method, you just need to keep the water level topped up, and your amaryllis should flourish.
It’s fascinating to watch the roots grow down through the pebbles to stabilize the plant. Again, place your amaryllis in a sunny south window, and turn it every few days, so it doesn’t unbalance itself.
After Bloom Bulb Care
To keep your bulb blooming vigorously year after year, make sure you deadhead the spent blossoms as they finish.
Cut the bloom stalks (not the leaves!) back to about 1-2 cm above the bulb. Keep watering it, and keep it in its sunny spot until the foliage naturally starts to die back.
Amaryllis bulbs need a dormancy period of about 6-10 weeks in the fall to get ready to bloom again. A cool, dark closet or storage room is the perfect spot for storing dormant bulbs.
If you’re growing your amaryllis in water, you’ll want to remove it from the water and trim the roots back a bit before storing it. If you’re growing in soil, you can dig it out of its pot and store it. Your bulb will go completely dormant in storage, so it won’t need any water during this period.
If you want to make sure your amaryllis blooms for Christmas, you’ll need to put the bulb into its dormant storage near the end of August or early September and pull it out for planting again at the beginning of November.
If you haven’t picked out an amaryllis yet, come visit our garden centre! We’ve got some beautiful varieties on hand, and if you get planting now, they’ll be blooming in time for the Christmas season.