Amaryllis: That Bold Winter Bloomer

GardenPlants & Shrubs

Amaryllis plants are once-a-year bloomers that produce spectacular trumpet-shaped flowers in reds, pinks, whites, and corals. Florida gardeners, plant your amaryllis in sunny beds outside or put them in pots in bright places inside. In healthy conditions, amaryllis will grow for decades.

Amaryllis is that winter-blooming plant with the giant four- to ten-inch trumpet-shaped flowers on top of a long stalk. For most of the year, it displays long, graceful leaves that grow from the top of the bulb. Then, once a year (or twice, if you know how to engineer it), the amaryllis puts on a spectacular floral display.

Amaryllis bulbs that are planted in a bed produce baby bulbs. If provided with favorable growing conditions, these bulbs will continue to reproduce, and the bed will contain more and more amaryllis as the years pass. We’ve all seen that one house with the jaw-dropping annual amaryllis display stretching across its front beds.

The amaryllis is cold-sensitive but can be planted in the ground in Zones 8-10, which covers all of Florida. Cold-tolerant amaryllis species can grow in Zone 7.

A Few Facts

  • The amaryllis is native to Peru and South Africa
  • Bulbs arrived in Europe in the 1700s
  • Some bulbs last up to 75 years
  • Amaryllis colors include red, white, pink, rose, burgundy, pink, and salmon. Some are striped; others have petals edged in a second color.

Where to Get Amaryllis

  • Ask your gardener friends if you can have some of their bulbs when they’re ready to divide them
  • Buy bulbs at your local nursery
  • Order bulbs from online suppliers (check a supplier’s reviews before ordering)

Amaryllis bulbs can be pricey ($12 to $40 each), but if cared for, will grow for years and produce baby bulbs. Large bulbs usually produce two flower stalks. Smaller bulbs only produce one stalk and may take a year in the ground before they flower.

How to Plant Bulbs

Florida gardeners can plant amaryllis bulbs directly in the ground. Put them in a site with well-drained soil that gets six to eight hours of direct daily sun.

In south Florida, plant the bulbs with their necks at ground level. In central and north Florida, put the bulbs in a hole with five inches of soil over the tops. Water thoroughly. When leaves start growing, only water the plant if the soil is dry to a depth of two inches.

Amaryllis can also be grown in containers of terracotta, ceramic, plastic, or metal. Use pots with a drainage hole at the bottom. The bulb can almost fill the pot from side to side (there should be at least an inch of soil around the sides of the bulb). The container should be at least twice as tall as the bulb to allow for root growth. Use new potting soil as the planting medium. Set the planted amaryllis in a sunny spot.

What to Do After Your Amaryllis Blooms

Cut flowers off the stalk after they have withered. Only remove the stalk after it has turned yellow. Leaving the stalk until it changes colors allows for photosynthesis to occur and energy to be stored in the leaves and bulb. Stored nutrients result in blooms next year.

After your amaryllis plants have bloomed, keep them fed and healthy. Plant them outdoors in the sunshine or place them in sunny places inside.