Amaryllis are large, trumpet-shaped flowers that bring a punch of color to any home or garden. Gardeners typically start with amaryllis bulbs, which look similar to an onion, that then sprout long, thin leaves and the iconic blooms. Amaryllis flowers come in eye-catching colors, can be over twelve inches wide, and can last for over seven weeks! But after that first flower starts to fade, many will ask: what do you do with amaryllis after they bloom?
The Basics of Re-Blooming
Amaryllis thrives in an environment with a nine-month wet period and a three-month dry period. By mimicking this cycle, you can encourage your plant to re-bloom after a forced dry or dormant period. Removing all foliage prior to the dormant period allows the bulb to retain vital nutrients and energy stores. Most importantly for all plants, provide your amaryllis with all the water and fertilizer it needs while it is growing.
After the Flowers Fade
Once your flowers begin to whither, it is best to cut them off before they start to form seeds. Creating seeds pulls vital nutrients and energy away from the rest of the plant. Keeping your amaryllis bulb healthy and full of available energy is the best way to promote re-flowering.
As the flower stalk dries out and starts to turn brown, cut it down within an inch of the bulb. Green leaves and stems should be left to continue photosynthesis, the process in which plants convert carbon dioxide and water into energy utilizing sunlight. By allowing photosynthesis to continue, your plant will build stores of nutrients and energy needed for the next re-blooming period.
Replanting Your Amaryllis Bulbs
If your amaryllis needs to be replanted, the best time to do so is when it is not in bloom. The plants prefer to be in a small pot with very little extra room (“pot-bound”). The pot should only be approximately one inch wider than the amaryllis bulb, but deep enough for the roots to have space to grow.
Loosely add a well-draining soil below and around your bulb, with one-third of the bulb remaining visible. Ideally, the top of the bulb should be above the edge of your container. It is important that your pot has drainage holes on the bottom to prevent mold and root rot.
Unlike other bulb species, such as hyacinth and tulip, amaryllis bulbs do not require a chilling or dormant period in order to bloom. With the right environment and care, your plant can continuously re-bloom after it stores enough nutrients and creates enough energy.
In areas where frost is not an issue, amaryllis can be grown outdoors year-round. Otherwise, they will need to be inside during the cold months and inside or outside during the warm months. Keeping your amaryllis in full sun (or as much sun as possible) will allow it to synthesize the energy needed to bloom again as soon as possible.
If you live in an area with freezing winter temperatures, or would just like to control when your amaryllis blooms, you can force your plant into a dormant period. During the dormant period, your plant remains alive but it is using very little energy and nutrients. By saving energy, the bulb will be ready to grow when the appropriate conditions are met (warm and sunny).
Once your blooms have died and been trimmed off, bring your plant inside to a dark, dry location, like a closet or basement. Ideally, the temperature would be between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the stems and leaves dry out and die off naturally before trimming down to the bulb. You can also remove the bulb from the soil to save space and allow it to rest as-is during this period.
Do not water or fertilize during dormancy, but check the amaryllis periodically for mold or other issues. After two to three months, you can move your plant to a sunny location and begin watering and fertilizing as normal. This forced dormancy will allow you to try to schedule your blooms around certain times of year or holidays.
The Holiday Amaryllis
The amaryllis has become a holiday staple in many homes, with pre-planted bulbs in decorative pots available for purchase a couple of months before the winter holiday season. If you would like to have your existing plant bloom for the holidays, stop fertilizing the plant in August.
In September, move your amaryllis into its dormant location and stop watering. Cut back the foliage down to the bulb as it starts to dry out. Follow the dormancy procedures until early November, when you can put your bulb back into a warm spot with sunlight and water as normal.
In the Garden
If you live in hardiness zones 8-10 (frost-free), your amaryllis bulbs can be planted outdoors directly in your garden. Garden amaryllis tend to bloom once in spring and will go dormant over winter if it is cool enough. In a warm enough location, it is possible for the plants to re-bloom more times throughout the year.
Like with a potted amaryllis, water when needed. Fertilizer is only needed prior to the plant putting up its flower stalk during the growth period. Trim off leaves and stems as they begin to turn yellow and die off.
Picking Your Amaryllis
Amaryllis has many varieties that differ in flower color and size. You can pick the best one for your needs or preferences. Here are a few of our favorites:
- “Cherry Nymph” will produce multiple smaller blooms with bright red flowers on two stalks
- “Clown” has eight-inch wide blooms of striped red and white petals
- “Evergreen” is a vibrant, light-green hue that can add a tropical feel to your home
- “Rilona” has subtle, apricot orange petals, an unusual color for amaryllis
- “Ferrari” will wow everyone with vibrant red blooms that are over twelve inches wide
Optimal Amaryllis Care
Outdoors, your amaryllis can handle partial shade to full sun. Once blooms are present, the plant prefers some shade to allow the flowers to stay bright as long as possible. Indoors, it is best to place your bulbs in a sunny window, southern exposure being ideal, during the growth period.
After you first plant your bulb, water sparingly until you see a couple of inches of growth out of the top, then water frequently. The amaryllis bulb will contain everything the plant needs nutrient-wise for the first flowers, but when attempting to get your plant to re-bloom, use a phosphorus-rich fertilizer to rebuild nutrient stores.
For the best flowers, turn your pot every couple days as the flower stalk is growing. This will keep the stalk growing straight for the tallest blooms. If the bud is too heavy, a support stake can help keep it upright. Once the flower starts to open, keep the plant out of direct sunlight to prolong the life of the flower.
By giving your plant the best opportunity to store nutrients and energy throughout the year, your amaryllis will continue to provide you with beautiful blooms.