How to Force Amaryllis Bulbs for Winter Beauty

A popular tradition is to grow amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs indoors during the colder months, so the large, colorful flowers add cheer to the home at this dreary time of year. Learn how to force amaryllis bulbs for winter beauty with these simple growing tips.

Amaryllis 'stargazer' for winter beauty indoors‘Stargazer’ Amaryllis photo via Mbgrigby/Flickr Creative Commons

Finding amaryllis shouldn’t be difficult at this time of year. In fall and early-winter, many garden centers and big box stores sell amaryllis bulbs or plants, in or near bloom. Amaryllis plants are available in single and double forms in a wide range of colors, from the popular red to pink, white and apricot. They can grow about 1 to 2 feet tall.

How to force amaryllis bulbs:

  • Select the largest bulbs you can find. Look for firm, dry bulbs that don’t have any mold or decay.
  • Pick a container about an inch bigger than your bulb.
  • Plant the amaryllis in the container with a well-draining potting soil that has lots of organic matter. Position the bulb to sit at least one-third to one-half above the soil surface.
  • Water the container with lukewarm water. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. You’ll probably need to water the plant about once a week.
  • Place the potted amaryllis in a warm, sunny spot. Temperatures around 70 to 75 F are best until your amaryllis starts to grow.
  • Some people like to attach a little bamboo stick next to the stem. As the amaryllis grows tall, you can stabilize the plant by loosely tying the stem to the stick.
  • Wait to fertilize the amaryllis until it starts growing. Then use a well-balanced fertilizer according to its directions.

White Amaryllis is stunning against black backgroundWhite amaryllis photo by Mundus Gregorius/Flickr Creative Commons

Once amaryllis starts blooming:

  • Move the amaryllis plant out of direct sunlight to prolong the life of the flowers.
  • The coolest parts of your house are a good home when this plant is flowering.
  • As the flowers start to fade away, cut them carefully from the stem.
  • Wait until the flower stalk has turned yellow, before you cut it. This will help the bulb manufacture and store food for next year.

Making amaryllis rebloom:

  • After the amaryllis plant has flowered, it’s important to keep it actively growing if you want the plant to eventually rebloom.
  • Keep the plant in bright sunlight after it has bloomed. Water the plant when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Always empty excess water, so the bulb doesn’t sit in the water. Keep fertilizing the plant.

red amaryllis growing indoorsRed amaryllis photo via ArturoYee/Flickr Creative Commons

  • As the warm weather returns – and all danger of frost is past – you can gradually acclimate the plant to outdoor growing conditions. First place the plant in shade, and then slowly increase the amount of sun until the plant receives at least 6 hours daily. Continue to fertilize the amaryllis with a balanced fertilizer monthly.
  • Before the first frost in the fall, bring the amaryllis plant back indoors.
  • Amaryllis does not need a resting period, and will bloom if evergreen. But if you give the plants a resting period, you can better control the blooming time.
  • To give them a resting period, store them indoors in a dark basement or closet. Don’t water during this time.
  • Let the bulbs rest for two to three months. If new growth appears, bring the plant into the light. Or, force blooms by bringing bulbs back into a sunny spot and watering. Typically, the flowers will develop in about 4 to 6 weeks.

Start some amaryllis plants now so you’ll have blossoms for the holidays. Forcing amaryllis for winter provides lots of colorful flowers during the darkest months of the year. A pot with these cheerful blossoms also makes a terrific holiday gift for family and friends.

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