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Amaryllis Care

By Nikki Keltner, Program Coordinator, University of Illinois Extension

One of my all-time favorite plants is the amaryllis. This plant is a very popular holiday plant, sold in many stores and often given as gifts. If you received an amaryllis as a gift I hope you have enjoyed its beautiful bell shaped blooms. There are many colors of amaryllis, red, white, pink, salmon, apricot, burgundy and variegated. One of the most popular varieties is "Apple Blossom" which is pink and white.

Typically sold as a bulb, amaryllis bulbs are often in a kit with soil and a pot. Once potted, the bulb starts shooting its flower stalk. My family enjoys watching the flower stalk grow day by day increasing in height until it reaches about 12 to 18 inches. Then the blooms start to unfold. It is like the anticipation of a gift, how many blooms will be on the stalk? They can have anywhere from 2 to 6 blooms on a stalk but typically have 4. As the beautiful bell shaped flowers unfold another flower stalk may appear and start to grow. While the plant is in bloom, set it in a cooler location in your house out of direct sunlight to ensure long lasting blooms.

The flower stalks are born before the leaves appear earning the amaryllis the nickname "naked lady." Once the blooms fade, the spent flower stalks can be cut down to the base, then the strap like leaves will start to appear. Allow the leaves to remain on the plant as they will create and store food in the bulb for next year. Next year? Yes, you can keep this plant and it will re-bloom for you. Place it in a bright, indoor location during the remainder of the winter months. Water it thoroughly but let it dry out between waterings. Once the danger of frost has passed, take your amaryllis outdoors where it can receive filtered sunlight like the north side of the house or under a large shade tree. Once it has adapted to being outside you can move it to where it receives more sun. You can leave it in a pot or plant it in a garden. I like to plant my amaryllis in a flowerbed that receives sun in the morning and shade from a little leaf linden tree in the afternoon. Outside the plants will thrive, taking in the nourishing rain and the sun. Fertilize the plant every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer designed for blooming plants (be sure to follow label directions).

Before the first frost, bring the amaryllis indoors. Store the plant in a cool, dark place like a basement and stop watering them. They can be stored in their pot or bare root. Since my amaryllis are directly planted in the ground during the summer and dug up in the fall, I typically store them bare root. Remove the leaves as they yellow. The bulb needs to go through this period of rest for about eight to twelve weeks in order to re-bloom. Inspect the bulbs periodically during this rest period, if they start to grow, re-pot them and bring them into the light. If they have not started to grow after the rest period, repot them with fresh potting soil, bring them into the light and start watering them. Soon you will see the flower stalk appear starting the entire process all over again.

There are a few other tips that will help you be successful with growing amaryllis. They should be planted in a pot that is about 2 inches larger in diameter than the bulb. The pot should have drainage to ensure excess water can leave the pot, keeping the roots healthy. Use a quality, soil-less potting mix avaible in any garden center. Plant the bulb so that the top one-third of the bulb is showing. Properly cared for amaryllis can live up to 75 years!

If you have additional questions about amaryllis or another plant that you received this Holiday season, please give us a call at the University of Illinois Extension at (815) 235-4125. Be sure to check out our website at and on our Blog called Northwest Illinois Horticulture Corner at for additional resources about plants and home gardening.