How to Grow Amaryllis

Amaryllis and other holiday plants are appearing in stores right about now. I encourage you to indulge yourself when it comes to amaryllis because you can enjoy it indoors for the holidays – and then they will survive and re-bloom for YEARS in your garden – or in your low-water desert-type landscape. That is if you live here in the Land of El Sol.

If you like the idea of bulbs in your garden – but don’t really like amaryllis? – there are so many other lovely bulbs to choose from!  Please see my post about Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs.  Already know how to plant them?  You can simply go to my List of Recommended Spring Bulbs under the “Resources” tab.

Pick the Right Bulb

The right one? Sure – what color and shape do you like? Plant breeders have been busy – with over 600 named colorful varieties to choose from.

This one reminds me of candy canes – very seasonally appropriate!

Plant what brings you joy! I personally like the traditional red ones, but there pink, white, red and white, salmon, green, candy-striped, and all manner of combinations. Then there are petal types to pick from – single, double flowered, spider petaled, or rounded.

Buy the bulbs in the stores now. Most amaryllis come in kits and sell for around $15. The kit is complete with simple instructions, a pot, a disk of growing media, and a bulb.

This is what your bulb should look like. Fat and juicy with just a hint of green. No long leaves.

Since the boxes are taped shut how do you pick one? Do take a peek into the book through the air holes and make sure the bulb has NOT started growing yet. A little green nose is okay. Lots of leaves are not good. (There’s a section on this in the YouTube video)

Grow Amaryllis

Just follow the very simple directions on the box.  Moisten the media.  Place the bulb. Put it in a fairly well lit location.  Enjoy.

These bulbs have been fooled into flowerring in time for the holidays. Do not plant them too deep. Do NOT overwater them.

More about growing the amaryllis kit on my YouTube channel! Sign up for my newsletter so you can get the link once I post that video.

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Amaryllis Can Sparkle in Your Garden

Save your Christmas amaryllis and plant it outdoors in your Southwest landscape! (if it doesn’t get below 15 degrees where you live). Amaryllis will grow and bloom for years to come. But! Don’t do this in winter – wait just a bit. I will post in January how to transition your bulbs to outdoors life. I also have videos shot already, but need to edit them.

Amaryllin naturally bloom in March or April in my garden – in amongst the roses.

Why Do I Say that Amaryllis “Sparkle?”

Amaryllis an ancient Greek name used for females and it and derives from the verb “amarýssō” meaning “sparkle or shine.” But that is not how the plant got it’s name.

The plant name comes from the stories that used the name “Amaryllis” for the female heroine of the tale. Stories that were made up by poets. Amaryllis is not a goddess or even any part of ancient mythology. She comes to us via some made-up stories that persisted over time.

Back in the day, poets created easily remembered and recited poems. Poems were used to entertain the masses, often recited to the strumming of a lap harp in the taverns of the day. It’s how they did entertainment back before television was invented.

19th century illustration of the Greek poem. Art by Brocklin.

Greek Amaryllis

The ancient Greek poem mentions the elusive nymph Amaryllis. A goatherd glimpsed her sublime form and fell in love with her sparkling beauty. So then he basically stalked her. Lacking restraining orders in those olden times, she hid in a cave until he starved to death outside her door – playing his flute and trying to win her love.

Roman Amaryllis

A few centuries later, a Roman poet created a story about Amaryllis, featuring her as a love-struck maiden who longed for the handsome but cold-hearted clod. She basically stalked him and did some self-mutilation that would send her for psychiatric evaluation in today’s world. Poor Amaryllis was so desperate to win this clods love, she pierced her heart with a golden arrow and then visited his cottage daily, shedding drops of blood along the way. On the thirtieth day, beautiful scarlet flowers bloomed where her blood had dropped. The clod became enamored and Amaryllis’ heart was healed.

Good heavens – those old poets sure knew how to create tales to entertain their audience!


Marketing Amaryllis

Jump forward to the 1600’s and that whole sailing around the globe and discovering new plants thing that was going on. All of a sudden, beautiful flowers from exotic places were all the rage. And highly lucrative as well! A single bulb could sell for the equivalent of $100,000 today dollars. (Look up “Tulip Mania” if you doubt me.)

Given this flower feeding frenzy – if you really wanted to market your bulbs and earn the big bucks – you had to come up with a great name.  Blood red blooms? Pick a name with a suitably bloody back story. Bonus points for the snob appeal of an ancient Roman poem that few people had ever read in the original Latin. Thus the name for one species was born – “Amaryllis”

My friend Ann in Fort Worth Texas tucked a single bulb into one of her patio planters. It was sheltered from frost by being on the patio and greeted holiday visitors to her home with bright flowers. Photo courtesy A. McCormick.

And then the Name Changed

Plant taxonomy began in 1721 and has proceeded to confuse people for the ensuing centuries.  At first Amaryllis was okay as a scientific and common name.  But in the 1800’s, the taxonomists moved things around and messed everybody up. They moved the popular holiday bulb out of the genus Amaryllis and put it into the genus Hippeastrum. Luckily you don’t need to know the scientific name to grow these sparkling beauties.

Just think of them by their common name “amaryllis” and enjoy these dramatic tropical blooms that help herald the holidays.


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