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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Flowers > Growing and caring for amaryllis

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Growing and caring for amaryllis

Mary Meyer and Julie Weisenhorn

amaryllis bulb

'Red Pearl'

amaryllis root

'Fantastica'

potting amaryllis bulb

'Picotee'

potted bulb

'Striped Amadeus'

Whether the first bulb or the fiftieth, there is high anticipation for the plant owner when the large, bright green bud emerges from a beefy amaryllis bulb!

Amaryllis may be purchased as bare or planted bulbs, and are prized for their exotic trumpet-shaped flowers born on 1 to 2 foot leafless stalks or “scapes.” They add dramatic color to homes and gardens, and make wonderful gifts to gardeners from beginners to experts.

Native to Peru and South Africa, the genus Amaryllis comes from the Greek word amarysso which means "to sparkle." Bulbs were brought to Europe in the 1700s and have been known to bloom for up to 75 years. Amaryllis is sometimes confused with the belladonna lily, which is known to be poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

Today, most amaryllis are hybrids but are still classified in the genus Hippeastrum. Amaryllis flowers range from 4 to 10 inches in size, and can be either single or double in form. While the most popular colors are red and white, flowers may also be pink, salmon, apricot, rose or deep burgundy. Some varieties are bicolor such as purple and green, or picotee (having petals with a different edge color).

Selecting, planting and caring for bulbs

Amaryllis bulbs come in various sizes. Whether purchasing a bare bulb to plant or bulbs planted in a pot, the size and condition of bulbs will influence amaryllis performance.

red and white flowers

Bulbs for sale at garden center.

Selecting bulbs

Planting

Amaryllis grow best in narrow containers. Containers may be made of plastic, metal, ceramic or terracotta.

amaryllis bulb

Figure 1

amaryllis root

Figure 2

potting amaryllis bulb

Figure 3

potted bulb

Figure 4

Caring for bulbs

After-flowering care

The secret to keeping amaryllis thriving for years is to keep the plants actively growing AFTER they have finished blooming.

bulbs in pots by a window

Move plants outdoors

Keeping the plant healthy and growing throughout the summer will promote blooming later in the season.

Bulbs with bright green new growth

Control blooming

Unlike some other bulbs, amaryllis do not require a "rest" or dormant period. They will bloom again if allowed to continue to grow. However, bloom time can be controlled by allowing the bulb go dormant (stop growing) for a period of time. During this resting period (dormancy), plants use very little of their energy reserves.

Repotting amaryllis

Amaryllis plants bloom best when they are somewhat potbound (growing in a container with little extra space). They require repotting only every 3 or 4 years. The best time to repot them is after they have gone through a dormant period.

amaryllis bulb

Figure 5

amaryllis root

Figure 6

potting amaryllis bulb

Figure 7

Follow the same potting procedure (see “Selecting, planting and caring for bulbs”). Be sure to use sterile, new potting soil and a clean container.

Pests and diseases

Although there are several insects, mites and diseases that may attack amaryllis plants under greenhouse conditions, they are not as common on amaryllis grown in homes. Careful inspection when purchasing bulbs accompanied by proper care will prevent most insect infestations as well as diseases.

The narcissus bulb fly (Merodon spp.) may lay its eggs in the bulbs of amaryllis plants that are placed outdoors for the summer.

The maggot larvae feed in the outer scales of the bulb and eventually work their way into the interior of the bulb. The foliage of infested plants may become wilted, yellow and distorted and the plant will eventually die. The exterior of the bulb may appear normal, but will reveal rotting tissue when pressed.

What to do: Because control is difficult, it is best to destroy any infested bulbs as soon as the narcissus bulb fly is identified. Use of insecticides is generally ineffective.

Poorly drained soil or soil that is constantly wet (overwatered) may also attract fungus gnats, a type of fruit fly.

Red blotch (Stagonospora curtissi) is a fungus disease that may affect both the appearance and the health of amaryllis plants. However, this disease is not usually fatal to the plant.

Red spots or blotches that develop into elongated cankers with red borders may develop on the base of the flower stalks and emerging leaves. The disease is often difficult to diagnose because superficial small red or pink patches may appear on the outside of healthy bulbs. The fleshy layers of the bulb underneath these patches should be white and free of markings. The leaves may become distorted and the flower stalks may break easily making the plants unsightly.

What to do to avoid red blotch:

Resources

Carter, K., Amaryllis, Amaryllis belladonna (Brunsvigia rosea) and Hippeastrum hybrids, Center for Urban Landscape and Horticulture, University of California Cooperative Extension Central Coast & South Region, www.ucanr.org/sites/UrbanHort/files/80184.pdf. Accessed 11/08/2016

Revised 2017

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