How to Have Amaryllis Blooming All Winter Long
If you are a flower lover, the months of December, January and February can be pretty bleak. Store-bought bouquets can help a little, but they always look a bit sad. It’s not just flowers that we crave. It’s their freshness and energy.
There’s no need to live through a flowerless winter. Amaryllis make it easy to fill your home with flowers and let you enjoy the pleasure of nurturing a plant from bulb to bloom.
Amaryllis (more accurately named Hippeastrum) are grapefruit-sized flower bulbs that are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. In frost-free areas (zones 8-11) they may be grown outdoors and will flower during the summer months. But the vast majority of amaryllis bulbs are sold in late fall to be grown indoors. Their natural bloom time is between December and March.
With a little planning, you can enjoy amaryllis all winter long. To get months of flowers you can start with as few as five amaryllis bulbs. Here’s how to do it.
Purchase Amaryllis Bulbs with Different Origins
Amaryllis have been produced commercially for more than 100 years and are currently grown in Holland, South Africa, Israel, Brazil, Peru and Japan. Bulbs that are produced in the southern hemisphere (South Africa, Brazil and Peru) bloom in December, while bulbs from the northern hemisphere (Holland, Japan, Israel and the U.S) typically bloom from late January into March. Purchasing bulbs from both of these growing regions, will let you enjoy the longest possible bloom time.
If you purchase amaryllis bulbs from a box store, the bulb origin probably won’t be apparent. For planning purposes (and to get the widest selection of top quality bulbs!) purchase your bulbs directly from a bulb purveyor like Longfield Gardens.
Choose 4 or More Different Amaryllis Varieties
Genetics have a role in determining when plants bloom. Take peonies, for example. The variety Bowl of Beauty blooms early in the peony season, while Sarah Bernhardt typically blooms two weeks later.
Amaryllis are similar. Some varieties come into bloom more quickly than others. If you purchase bulbs based on when they bloom, you can have flowers opening over a period of months rather than weeks. To learn which varieties bloom when, read When Will Your Amaryllis Bloom.
Plant One or More Amaryllis Bulbs Each Month
Begin the amaryllis season with early-blooming bulbs from the southern hemisphere. They usually take about 4 weeks to flower, so for holiday blooms, the time to plant these bulbs is early November.
Amaryllis bulbs that are produced in the northern hemisphere begin blooming in January. Plant the earliest-blooming varieties first and end with the latest. Plan to plant three batches of bulbs about 3 weeks apart, starting in mid-December.
Use Heat and Light to Control Growth Rate
Before you plant the bulbs, keep them in a dark, cool (45°F) place with good air circulation (don’t store them in a plastic bag). Once the bulbs are potted, it’s ideal to have two different growing zones, both with good, indirect light. This will let you adjust the bloom time by slowing growth (55 to 60°F) or giving it a nudge (65 to 70°).
Once your amaryllis are flowering, you can extend the bloom time by keeping the blossoms cool. Make sure they are never in direct sunlight, and if possible, move the pot into a cooler room overnight. Another way to enjoy amaryllis is as cut flowers. They last just as long in a vase as when still attached to the bulb. To learn more, read How to Use Amaryllis as Cut Flowers.