The Amaryllis Family: Dutch Amaryllis

The huge bulbs of "amaryllis" that we find in the stores at the holiday season each year are a favorite for instant bloom. The plants are sometimes referred to as "Dutch Hybrid Amaryllis," but they may come South Africa or even from India, as well as from the Netherlands. They are in the genus Hippeastrum and have been in cultivation for about 300 years.

How to Care for Your New Amaryllis

It should be possible for you to enjoy the same amaryllis plant year after year. You just have to understand its requirements, and you have to satisfy them. The following will, we hope, help you to do that.

If the bulb has not been pre-planted when you buy it, plant it in a pot about 1 inch wider than the width of the bulb. The potting mix you use should be light and free draining but should also retain some moisture between waterings. We use a mixture of brown peat, sand, and granite grit. Perlite and vermiculite can also be added generously to peat-based potting mixtures to make them lighter and more free draining. Plant the bulb high, so that the upper 1/3 to 1/2 of it is above the surface of the potting mix. Do not water it yet.

The potted bulb should be placed in a warm spot, 70 to 80F (21 to 27C), until the new leaves have started to appear. It should also bloom at this time, if it is going to bloom this season. In any case, when the green leaves appear, you can start watering it; water it very cautiously at first. You can also let the temperature be somewhat cooler from this point on, perhaps 65 to 75F (about 18 to 24C)

When the new leaves appear, the plant must be moved to a very sunny spot. A south-facing window (in the Northern Hemisphere; a north window in the Southern Hemisphere) would be good. When the leaves have appeared, start feeding the plant. Do not use an organic fertilizer, as organic materials such as bone meal, blood meal, and fish meal encourage rot and mold. Amaryllis bulbs and their roots are very susceptible to rots.

In most climates, you can and should move your amaryllis plant outdoors for the summer. You must wait until all danger of frosts has passed, of course. It should be in full sun or light, partial shade. Water it regularly when it is dry, and feed it with a dilute soluble fertilizer about twice a month. In periods of heavy or prolonged rainfall, move the plant to a sheltered location out of the rain until dry weather returns.

At the end of summer, stop feeding your amaryllis plant, but continue watering it when it becomes quite dry. Before the first frosts in autumn, bring your plant back indoors. At this point, you should let it go completely dry. It can now be moved to a cool (55 to 65F, about 13 to 18C), dark place for its winter resting period. Allow the leaves to turn yellow and dry. You can remove them then and discard them.

Leave the bulb resting in the cool, dark place for 6 to 12 weeks. After that period, you can then bring the bulb out of storage, repot it in fresh potting mixture, and return it to a warm place to wake it up again.

We hope you enjoy your amaryllis for many years to come, and we wish you Good Luck!

If you have specific questions not answered by this FAQ page, you can contact us by e-mail at <>. When contacting us, be sure to include your geographic location in your message. Advice for Scottish gardeners would be decidedly different from advice for Florida gardeners.

Other Sources of Information

Bulbous Plants of Southern Africa, by Neil du Plessis and Graham Duncan, Tafelberg Pub. Ltd., Cape Town (1989).
Bulbs for Warm Climates, by Thad M. Howard, University of Texas Press, Austin (2001).
Bulbs, Revised Edition, by John E. Bryan, Timber Press, Portland (2002).
Cape Bulbs, by Richard L. Doutt, Timber Press (1994).
RHS Manual of Bulbs, John Bryan and Mark Griffiths, Eds., Timber Press (1995).

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Last revised: 18 February 2003

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