Yard and Garden: Selecting and Growing Amaryllis for the Holidays

Amaryllis are the perfect holiday flower, with beautiful blooms, fast growth and bright colors. They’re an excellent, pretty addition to your celebration, but what type should you choose, and how do you get them to bloom at the right time?

Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach share the best way to plant amaryllis for this holiday season. To have additional questions answered, contact Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

How do you pot up an amaryllis bulb? 

When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot which is approximately one to two inches wider than the diameter of the bulb. The container may be clay, ceramic or plastic, but should have drainage holes in the bottom. Plant the bulb in a well-drained potting soil. Place a small amount of potting soil in the bottom of the pot. Set the bulb in the center of the pot. Then add additional potting soil, firming it around the roots and bulb. When finished potting, the upper one-half of the bulb should remain above the soil surface. Also, leave about one inch between the soil surface and the pot’s rim.  Then water well and place in a warm (70 to 75 degree Fahrenheit) location.  

After the initial watering, allow the potting soil to dry somewhat before watering again. Keep the potting soil moist, but not wet. When growth appears, move the plant to a sunny window and fertilize every two to four weeks with a dilute fertilizer solution. During flower stalk elongation, rotate the plant each day to keep the flower stalk growing straight. Staking may be necessary if the flower stalk leans badly.  

Flowering usually occurs about six to eight weeks after potting. When the amaryllis begins to bloom, move the plant to a slightly cooler (65 to 70 degree Fahrenheit) location that doesn’t receive direct sunlight to prolong the life of the flowers.

When should an amaryllis bulb be planted in order for the amaryllis to be in bloom for the holiday season?

An amaryllis bulb usually blooms about six to eight weeks after planting.  Plant the bulb in early November if you want the amaryllis to be in bloom for the holiday season.

What types of amaryllis are available?

Home gardeners can choose from single-flowering, double-flowering, and miniature amaryllis varieties (cultivars). Flower colors include red, pink, orange, salmon, white and bicolors. Excellent single-blooming cultivars include ‘Apple Blossom’ (white with pink feathering), ‘Christmas Gift’ (white with a green throat), ‘Minerva’ (red with white star), ‘Orange Sovereign’ (orange), ‘Picotee’ (white with red edge), and ‘Red Lion’ (deep crimson red).  ‘Aphrodite’ (white with pinkish red feathering), ‘Blossom Peacock’ (rose-red with white throat and midrib), ‘Dancing Queen’ (red and white striped) and ‘White Nymph’ (white) are available double-flowering cultivars.

Miniature cultivars include ‘Baby Star’ (deep red with a white star center), ‘Fairytale’ (white with raspberry red stripes), ‘Green Goddess’ (white with green center) and ‘Neon’ (fuchsia pink with a white throat).