Looking for guidance on properly growing amaryllis bulbs indoors? Learn all about what this plant actually is, as well as how to care for it after blooming, how to save the bulbs for next year, and how to transfer them outside for the spring and summer!
All about growing amaryllis bulbs indoors
I’ve been enjoying getting more into flowering plants over the last year or so, including plants that grow from a bulb. I love growing paperwhites indoors from bulbs, so when I saw some red and white amaryllis bulbs on sale for a great price, I decided to snag them for Christmas!
Growing amaryllis bulbs indoors is very similar to growing paperwhite bulbs indoors. In fact, a lot of stores have little kits you can buy that come with bulbs, a pot, and a condensed potting medium that you just have to add water to.
Hippeastrum vs. amaryllis bulbs
But what is amaryllis, and how did it become associated with the holiday season? First I should cover the plant’s actual genus, and that’s Hippeastrum. Hippeastrum is a genus of about 90 different species (and hundreds of hybrid species) in the family Amaryllidaceae.
This is where it gets kind of confusing, so bear with me. For a long time, botanists disagreed over the names Hippeastrum and amaryllis. This disagreement and confusion has led to most people using the name “amaryllis” to refer to the species of the Hippeastrum genus that is commonly sold as an indoor flowering bulbs during the holidays.
However, the name “amaryllis” is also used to refer to flowering bulbs that are native to South Africa and are usually grown outdoors. This is in contrast to the “amaryllis” type of Hippeastrum that is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas (Central and South America).
What does a Hippeastrum “amaryllis” look like?
Hippeastrum amaryllis generally comes in a bag of loose bulbs, but they can also come planted in a pot with soil or in a little grow kit. The bulbs are perennial, meaning they can come back every year with proper care.
The bulbs sprout strappy leaves with stems that can grow several feet tall. And each stem can grow several funnel-shaped, pointy flowers in different colors—red, white, pink, and more.
Why are Hippeastrum “amaryllis” flowers associated with Christmas?
You might be wondering—as I was—why the Hippeastrum “amaryllis” is so strongly associated with Christmas. It’s a tropical plant native to South and Central America, and it isn’t cold or frost hardy.
In most areas of the North American subcontinent, it is way too cold to grow amaryllis bulbs outdoors. Indoors, however, is perfect. That’s because when they are grown indoors, they bloom around the holidays—November and December.
Not to mention, they also come in a variety of gorgeous colors associated with Christmas—namely bright red and pure white. Those are the two colors I was able to easily find.
For all of these reasons, they are often sold alongside poinsettias, paperwhites, and Norfolk pines in October, November, and December. Besides–who doesn’t love fresh flowers indoors? And they make great gifts, too.
How do you take care of an amaryllis bulb indoors?
So let’s talk about growing Hippeastrum “amaryllis” bulbs indoors. It’s very easy! You can of course also grow them outside…but since they are so commonly grown indoors around the holidays, that’s what I’ll focus on.
These amaryllis bulbs take about 5-10 weeks after planting to bloom, so keep that in mind when you are deciding when to plant them. However, when I finally purchased my bulbs in December, I noticed that many of them already had sprouts coming out.
They weren’t even in soil or anything! Some even had full-blown flowers, so they were just sitting in a box beside the bulbs. That tells you how hardy these plants can be!
To get started, here’s what you need:
- Hippeastrum “amaryllis” bulbs
- Well-draining soil; something for houseplants works great because they include additives to facilitate drainage and encourage lightweight moisture retention
- A pot with drainage holes; keep in mind that the plants can be pretty top-heavy when they are fully grown, so you might need to set the pot you use in something heavier like a ceramic pot
And here’s how to grow amaryllis bulbs indoors!
Once you have your bulbs, your soil, and a suitable pot, here’s how to plant the bulbs to encourage successful blooming.
Step 1: Fill the base of the pot with soil
First fill the base of your pot with soil. Pack it down lightly to give the bulb a nice stable base to grow in. The bulbs are big, so add just enough soil so that the tip of the bulb will be exposed once you completely fill the pot in with soil.
Step 2: Add bulbs and fill in to stabilize them
Next add the bulbs with the root side down and the pointy side up. Gently push them down into the soil and fill in around the bulbs so that the tips remain exposed. Water deeply, letting all of the excess flow from the drainage holes.
You can plant bulbs pretty closely together if you have more than one to plant in a pot. They don’t mind being a bit crowded and will still successfully bloom.
Step 3: Place in a sunny spot indoors
After planting and watering, place your pot in a warm, sunny spot. I have mine in one of my sunroom windows—they like warmth, so make sure it isn’t too drafty of a spot.
Winter-blooming amaryllis bulbs enjoy heat, so if you have something like a lightly heated seedling mat, that’s a great choice. Others put theirs on top of radiators to help with heat. More heat will help speed up growth, while colder temps throttle it a bit.
Step 4: Water when the soil is dry
Overwatering your amaryllis bulbs is one of the best ways to kill them. You don’t want the soil to stay wet for too long. Much with my other indoor bulbs, I wait until the soil dries out almost completely before watering the plant again.
Once you notice that your plant is about to begin blooming, you can move the plant a bit farther from the bright sun. This can help prolong your plant’s blooming time, as can moving it to a cooler space.
How long does an indoor amaryllis last?
Once your plant blooms, you can expect each bloom to last a few weeks. Again, you can prolong the blooms by moving the plant into a cooler, darker space. Even doing so just at night can help.
As flowers fade, you can trim them off. Make sure to cut just the flower and its stem off, too. You want to leave the leaves on the bulbs, even if they are ugly. Let’s discuss.
What do you do with an amaryllis bulb after flowering?
Caring for an amaryllis plant after flowering is very similar to caring for something like a tulip bulb after flowering. Keeping the foliage and letting it die off slowly is key. You might want to cut the leaves off and store the bulbs, but put down those scissors!
The dying leaves are gathering nutrients and energy to store in the bulb for its next blooming cycle. Once the leaves turn completely brown and are dead (this will take several weeks), you can remove them.
If you’d like to get your bulbs into another blooming cycle, you can do that, too. You’ll need to make sure you store the bulbs (in the soil is fine, just don’t water) in a cool place for 2-3 months.
If it’s winter where you are, this can be an unfinished basement or garage. They just need the period of coolness. Jump start the growth cycle after this period of coolness by watering the bulbs and moving them into a sunny spot. Rinse and repeat!
How do I keep my amaryllis bulb to grow again next year?
If you want to store the bulbs to plant again during the next holiday season, you can remove the bulb, trim off the excess roots and foliage, and store it in a cool, dry place. Repeat the planting cycle around October of the following year!
How many years does an amaryllis bulb last?
Your bulbs can last decades with proper care. It’s essential to let the foliage die off slowly and completely so that all of the energy in the bulb is replenished. They also need a proper period of dormancy.
Do amaryllis bulbs multiply?
Yes. However, the speed at which your amaryllis bulbs multiply depends on your growing conditions, the size of your pot, how many times you force your bulbs into a growth cycle, and more.
If you do notice that your amaryllis bulbs have multiplied, you can separate them. Separation generally becomes a requirement when bulbs are grown outdoors in the ground and have ample room to spread.
Can you grow amaryllis bulbs in water?
You might be wondering if you can grow amaryllis bulbs in water like you can some other bulbs. The answer is yes—you can. However, the plant will bloom for only one cycle.
If that’s fine with you, go forth and grow them in water! However, if you want to keep the bulbs going for a few years, growing them in soil is best. I generally have better luck growing paperwhites in soil, too—even though they can be grown in water.
Can you move amaryllis bulbs outside for the spring?
Yes, you can totally move the bulbs outside for the spring. This is a great option. Just remember that they need that period of dormancy after blooming and before growing again in the spring.
You can start them in pots indoors and move them outdoors once any danger of frost has passed. Dappled shade or even full (but bright) shade is best for outdoor plants.
You don’t want to overwater them, but don’t let them go for too long with the soil completely dry. Especially when the plant is about to flower, make sure you give it a drink!