How to Grow an Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) is one of the most extravagant, yet easily-maintained, flowers you can own. These flowers can be on the expensive side but they are well worth the cost. The name Hippeastrum was given by William Herbert and it means "Knight's-star-lily." No one seems to know why he thought that was good name, but he named one amazing flower so we'll give him credit.


The amaryllis that most people know and love isn't completely an amaryllis. An actual amaryllis is a large flower that is native to South Africa. These flowers are hard to transplant and help thrive indoors. They also need a whole lot of room. Bulbs bought at most nurseries are actually a different type of flower all together, called Hippeastrum. Hippeastrum are native the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, mainly Central and South America. These flowers look similar but are much smaller and easier to care for. Now, among botanists the topic of what this small house plant should be called is hotly debated. In all honesty it doesn't matter. Call it Amaryllis or Hippeastrum, either is correct.


If you'd like to learn more about these two incredible flowers click here for Amaryllis and here for Hippeastrum.


PRE-BLOOM CARE:

Amaryllis bulbs should be planted with 1/3 to 1/2 of the bulb above soil line. The bulb should be planted in a 6" - 8" pot that is somewhat heavy. This helps avoid tipping the pot over from the weight of the blooms. After planting, you should water it thoroughly and place the pot where the temperature remains above 60 degrees. The warmer the temperature (70-80 degrees day/night), the faster the bulb will grow. You can even provide bottom heat by setting the pot on a propagation mat, heating pad, or the top of the refrigerator because it may stimulate the amaryllis to grow a little quicker. At this point, only water when the top inch of the potting soil is dry to the touch. Keeping the soil too wet can easily rot the bulb.


Remember amaryllis' are tropical plants and how well they bloom and grow is almost completely temperature driven. This means the warmer the room the faster it will grow and a cooler room slows the growth. At 2-8 weeks you should begin to see growth as the bulb breaks dormancy. Certain varieties of amaryllis may take more time to sprout. Some can take up to 10 weeks to bloom. As long as your bulb remains firm, be patient, don't over water, and provide ample sunshine as soon as the bulb sprouts. The more light it receives, the shorter the flower stalks. Having shorter stocks works in your favor because it makes it less likely the stocks with break due to the weight of the blooms. Pro tip, if you rotate the pot frequently it helps prevent the flower stalks from leaning toward the light. The flower stalks may require support to keep from flower from toppling. If need be, simply use a stake to prop up the blooms.


REBUILDING THE BULB:

After the bulb is done flowering, it's pretty exhausted. If you want to keep your bulb flowering next year and the year after, you have to let it rebuild itself. Once the last bloom fades, cut off the flower stalk 3-5 inches above the bulb; do not cut the leaves off. The foliage produces food and stores it in the bulb which allows the bulb to bloom again next time. Place your pot in a sunny area, water when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch, and fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month.


In the spring, when the danger of frost has passed, you can set the pot outdoors in a garden that has morning sun and afternoon shade. You can also plant the bulb in its pot in the ground or by itself. Remember to leave the bulb at the same level as it was in the pot. Around the end of August to mid-September, bring the bulb indoors, cut the foliage off just above the bulb and store it dry in a cool (45-55 degrees), dark place such as a basement for 4-12 weeks. After letting it rest, re-pot the bulb with new soil and water it thoroughly. The first time you water your bulb, it needs a thorough soaking. Thereafter, keep the soil damp until new growth emerges then follow the instructions under “Pre-Bloom Care.”

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