The flamboyant blooms of amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are a stunning sight that’s all the more welcome in the depths of winter and early spring. They’re easy to grow, and take between six to eight weeks to flower. Planted in mid- to late September, they should be in flower for Christmas.
Like many bulbs, including lilies, all parts of amaryllis are poisonous to cats and dogs, so it’s a good idea to grow them in areas they can’t reach.
How to grow amaryllis
Soak the amaryllis bulbs for a few hours to help rehydrate the roots and speed up the growth process. Fill a pot with compost and sit the bulb on top – don’t use a pot that’s too big: amaryllis do best when pot bound. Top up with compost and water well. Leave your amaryllis bulb in a warm, dark place for a couple of weeks and and then bring inside when a shoot emerges. Expect flowers in six to eight weeks.
Where to grow amaryllis
Native to subtropical regions of the Americas, Amaryllis are best grown as a house plant here in the British Isles. Choose a bright spot away from drafts and out of direct sunlight.
How to plant amaryllis
Amaryllis take six to eight weeks to bloom after planting. By staggering the planting, you can enjoy flowers right up to Easter by using the eight-week rule; just count back from the desired blooming period. If you want blooms for Christmas, plant in September.
From spidery cybisters to 75cm-tall giants, all amaryllis have the same requirements. They’re best suited to a rich, very well drained growing medium, in a warm, light spot. Provide this by incorporating grit or sand and leaf mould or well-rotted manure into multi-purpose compost.
Amaryllis perform best if sat tightly in their containers, so choose one that allows a couple of centimetres of compost around the bulb. Soak the amaryllis bulb and its roots in a bowl of tepid water for a few hours before potting it up. Then half fill the pot with peat-free, multi-purpose compost, breaking up any lumps and lightly firming it in place with your fingers. Set the bulb in place, making sure the top sits just above the pot. Fill around the bulb with compost and firm gently. Water well and allow the pot to drain. Finish by adding a layer of horticultural grit around the bulb, to keep the compost moist.
Keep your amaryllis in a cool room with plenty of light as this will allow it to develop slowly, maintaining a strong flower shoot and leaves. Once in flower you might need to support the flower spikes with canes.
In this clip from Gardeners’ World, Monty Don plants amaryllis bulbs in pots indoors, so they flower in time for Christmas. Planted during October into an attractive container, they should produce their large trumpet flowers during the coming festive season. Monty Don recommends the rich red variety ‘Royal Velvet’, which is great for decorating your home or to give as a gift:
How to encourage your amaryllis to flower again
Don’t throw your amaryllis out after it’s flowered. With a little care, it’s easy to get it to bloom again. Once your amaryllis has flowered, the bulb keeps growing, so it’s worth repotting it into a slightly larger container. Part-fill with fresh peat-free compost and plant the bulb as you did in autumn. Remove the flower bud, snipping it off at the base, so the plant diverts its energy from seed production. Once potted up, water well but let the compost dry out between waterings.
In late spring, after all risk of frost has passed, pop your amaryllis outside for summer. Water and feed with a
liquid fertiliser weekly, to keep the leaves in growth, which in turn feeds the bulb. Then stop watering completely in August to encourage a dormancy period of around eight weeks. The leaves will turn yellow and start to die down.
In mid-October, bring your amaryllis back inside and start watering again. The combination of dormancy and cool night temperatures will initiate the flower buds.
Growing amaryllis: problem solving
The main problems when growing amaryllis are associated with over-watering. Amaryllis need very free-draining compost, and so watering too much can lead to fungal infections. Symptoms include yellowing leaves and a droopy stem. You may not be able to remedy the problems once arisen, but in future make sure your bulbs grow in free-draining compost and the pot never sits in water.
Other causes of a droopy stem can be too much warmth, which encouraged the stem to grow too quickly. Use a cane to support it and grow in cooler conditions the following year.
Mosaic virus can be a problem for amayryllis. Infected plants have yellow streaking on the leaves and become weaker with age, eventually growing and flowering less. There’s nothing you can do here, apart from destroy the bulb and start again.
Insects can become a problem in greenhouses. These include scale, mites, thrips, bulb maggots and mealybugs.
Amaryllis to grow
Amaryllis ‘Royal Velvet’
As the name suggests, the flowers of ‘Royal Velvet’ are a deep scarlet, with a velvety texture. The flower spike, or scape, will reach around 50cm in height.
Amaryllis ‘Green Goddess’
‘Green Goddess’ is a smaller, more dainty variety, with flowers that resemble lilies. The centre of the flowers is flushed with apple green, fading to pure white. ‘Green Goddess’ will grow to 45cm in height.
The spidery flowers of ‘Chico’ make it one of the most distinctive amaryllis varieties. With a scape growing to 50cm, the green and fuchsia-coloured blooms are unmissable.
Amaryllis ‘Mont Blanc’
Reaching a statuesque 60cm in height, ‘Mont Blanc’ has large pure white blooms, with a lovely lime-green centre.
The veined scarlet and white petals give ‘Tosca’ a particularly festive air. Expect it to grow to a towering 60cm in height.
Though not growing as tall as other amaryllis (around 40cm), ‘Fairytale’ is nonetheless stunning. The red and white veined petals are particularly striking.
Amaryllis ‘Emerald’ is all about the detail. The white-green petals are delicately frilled and have pretty red margins. Will reach 45cm in height.
Amaryllis ‘Clown’ has marvellous blooms with white and red stripes, which are held atop tall stems. Expect this variety to reach 60cm in height.
Unlike other amaryllis, the eye-catching red and white veined flowers of H. papilio are held on several stems, rather than one. Will reach 50cm in height.
Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’
Growing to an impressive 60cm, ‘Red Lion’ is surely one of the most impressive amaryllis varieties, with large, deep red trumpets.
A much-coveted variety for its gentle, sweet scent, ‘Amputo’ has handsome white flowers, similar to lilies. Can reach 45-60cm.
Amaryllis ‘Apple Blossom’
So called because of its pink-tinged petals, ‘Apple Blossom’ is one of the more delicate amaryllis varieties. Will grow to 40-60cm in height.
Like ‘Chico’, ‘Sumatra’ is a dazzling example of the cybister amaryllis varieties, which are characterised by their slender petals. This variety will grow to 40cm.
A superb double variety, ‘Alfresco’ has pure white flowers with an apple-green throat, and will reach 60cm in height.
Amaryllis ‘Exotic Star’
The lovely raspberry-coloured veins of ‘Exotic Star’ are not to be missed. Expect the scape to reach 50-60cm in height.
Amaryllis ‘Black Pearl’
The deep maroon coloured flowers of ‘Black Pearl’ are unmistakeable, and have a silky look when light catches them. Grows to 60cm in height.