Saving Amaryllis

Amaryllis in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Amaryllis at Victoria’s (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

As the holiday season rolls in, so too do our showy bulbed friends, the amaryllis. Now available in a range of colors, sizes and forms, this striking flower has become the commonplace go-to plant for festive decorating themes.  Rightly so, as amaryllis creates an absolutely fabulous centerpiece. Yet, every year I purchase at least one, enjoy it ’til the last petal falls from the last stem, and then, what to do?  Usually, I stick them in the garage and compost them the following spring.  But, there is an alternative . . .

While selecting this year’s amaryllis from my friend, organic plant woman extraordinaire Victoria Taft, I asked her the secret to keeping amaryllis going year after year.  She graciously passed this info from Easy to Grow Bulbs ( along to me, with a few additional pointers, and I’m sharing it with the hope that some of us will be able to  save our bulbs from the compost heap next spring:

  • When the spectacular blossoms have faded from your amaryllis, snip off the flower stems about 1/2″ from the bulb. Don’t cut off the leaves. If the bulbs are big, most will develop second, or even third, flower stalks. Just snip the blossom stalks off as the blooms go by and savor all the flowers your bulbs produce.
  • White Amaryllis in A Garden for All By Kathy Diemer

    White Amaryllis at Victoria’s (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

    After the last bloom stalk has been clipped off  your amaryllis will still have attractive, strappy, dark green leaves. Place your plants in sunny windows so these leaves can gather light, photosynthesize and provide nourishment to the bulbs. Keep watering your plants so the soil says lightly moist, but never soggy. *Tip from Victoria: Give your amaryllis a good fertilizing at the end of the bloom cycle, to promote good flowering next year.  And continue with a time release liquid fertilizer weekly thereafter.

  • If you haven’t killed it by late spring, think about where your amaryllis can spend the summer. Choose a sunny location and take them out for a summer vacation when night temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees. You can leave the bulbs in their pots, just be sure the containers have drainage holes, and nestle them somewhere in the middle to back of the garden where they can blend in. If there are no drainage holes, the pots will fill with water when it rains and the bulbs will rot. Give them a little fertilizer when you provide the same for the rest of the garden; this will help strengthen the bulbs for future flowering.
  • Double Amaryllis 'Elvas' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

    Double Amaryllis ‘Elvas’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

    In August, well before the first frost, bring your amaryllis back inside, cut off all the foliage about 1″-2″ from the top of the bulbs, and place the bulbs in a dry, dark place. Basements are good choices, and even the back of a closet will work. You are trying to force your bulbs to take a rest, to slip into a few weeks of dormancy before starting a new flowering cycle. During this period, withhold all water.

  • Victoria's Green room in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

    Victoria’s plant filled dining room (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

    Let your amaryllis sleep for four to six weeks. Then, start the growing cycle over just as you did when your first planted the bulbs. Replace the soil with fresh mix, remove any dead leaves and old, peeling bulb sheaths (these look like the dried, outer skins on an onion) and replant, again with the bulb shoulders exposed. Place your bulbs in bright light in a warm spot and give them one good drink of water. The combination of light and water will “wake up” the plants and encourage them to start growing again. When the first little leaves appear, and not before, begin watering regularly. (If you give a steady supply of water to a bulb with no foliage, the bulb will rot.)

  • With good care most amaryllis bulbs will bloom seasonally for years. Some cultivars even develop offspring bulbs alongside the mother bulbs and these youngsters eventually grow large enough to bloom, too.

So, my gardening friends, if you’re inclined to give it a shot, I give you a big thumbs up and cross the rest of my fingers.  As for me, the grim reaper of  indoor plants,  I think I’ll give mine back to my emerald thumbed friend, Victoria, to ensure they’ll live long and prosper for years to come.


  1. Those are breath taking beauties! Just too much work….

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