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by Suzanne DeJohn
Everyone loves amaryllis, and if you've grown them, you know how quickly and beautifully they bloom, almost like magic. Best of all, growing them takes no gardening experience, and that's why they're so popular in Gift Kits for the holidays. If you've never tried, follow along and learn how to plant amaryllis bulbs the easy way! Even if you've never planted a seed or grown a bulb, you can be an amaryllis expert in minutes. Simply plant your bulb and add water. It's really that simple.
Choose a Pot
If your amaryllis bulb didn't come in a kit with soil and pot, you'll need to find a proper pot. Amaryllis bulbs are the size of a very large onion (or larger), but they like to be somewhat crowded in their pots. Choose a pot that allows about one inch all around and about two inches below your bulb. Be sure it has drainage holes so excess water can drain, and add saucer to catch the runoff.
Plant the Bulb
Place one to two inches of moist potting soil in the bottom of the pot. Set the bulb in the pot pointy end up, roots down. The "shoulders" of the bulb should stick up out of the soil (see illustration above) so adjust the amount of soil if necessary. Fill in around the bulb with potting soil, firming it gently. Water just enough to fully moisten and settle the soil.
Caring for Your Amaryllis
Place the pot in a warm spot. It doesn't have to be sunny -- on the top of your refrigerator or near a heater is fine.
Water lightly to keep the soil slightly moist but not wet.
Once the new shoot emerges, place the pot in a sunny window.
Water your amaryllis as needed to keep the soil moist. Now that the pot's in the sun and the plant is growing, you'll need to water more often than you did before. Be sure to empty the saucer to remove excess water. Turn the pot regularly to make the stalk grow straight; otherwise, it will bend and grow towards the light.
Once the plant begins blooming, display it proudly! Did you know you can keep your amaryllis all year and coax it back into bloom next holiday season? For more more information, read Foolproof Amaryllis, Indoors and Out.
Amaryllis Outdoors (Zones 9 - 11)
Since these bulbs are tropical (native to South America), they can be grown beautifully outdoors in very warm and frost-free zones. This means from southern Georgia down through Florida, south Texas, and much of the Pacific coast. Planting time in these areas is usually September or October, and if the bed is well-cared for, the bulbs will stay in the ground and flower for years.
We are frequently asked, "What can I do to ensure my amaryllis are in bloom for the holidays?" The answer: Most amaryllis will bloom 6 to 12 weeks after planting. If you want to ensure blooms at holiday time, here are a few things you can do:
The time between planting and bloom varies for different amaryllis varieties, so plant several varieties for a long season of bloom. While you're waiting to plant, store your amaryllis bulbs in a cool (40-50F), dry, dark place. (Not the refrigerator; it's too cold.) Don't worry if the bulbs begin to sprout a little; just take care not to damage the emerging shoots.
Starting in mid to late October, plant one amaryllis bulb every week for three or four weeks. That way, bulbs will be in different stages of growth and one or more will be in bloom for the holidays.
Although it's best to grow amaryllis at room temperature, you can vary the growth rate by modifying the temperature slightly. Once the flower stalk is formed, you can slow its growth by placing the plant in a room that's a bit cooler (55 to 60F) or speed its growth with warmer temperatures (75 to 80 F).
Once your amaryllis is in full bloom, you can keep it looking its best by keeping it at cool room temperature and out of direct sunlight. If it's on display in a warm room, just put it in a cool (55 to 60F) place at night. And watch for additional flower shoots, which sometimes appear as the first flowers fade.
Tip: Blooming amaryllis make welcome gifts! Consider potting up some of our amaryllis kits so they're at or near bloom in time for holiday gift-giving.