Growing Amaryllis in Your Southern California Garden

Written by Susan B.

When someone mentions Amaryllis bulbs, you probably think of the bulbs that are part of holiday gift kits that include a bulb, a pot, and the growing medium. And that’s a logical assumption because Amaryllis bulbs have become so much a part of the holiday gift-giving tradition – especially among gardeners and plant lovers. It may not have occurred to you that our mild Southern California climate is ideal for growing Amaryllis in the ground, too. It doesn’t matter whether you receive an Amaryllis bulb as a holiday gift, buy them for yourself, or want to give one to a plant lover on your gift list. You will want to learn about how to continue to enjoy this gorgeous bulb in your garden as a long-lasting perennial flowering plant. 

About Amaryllis Bulbs 

The Amaryllis is native to both Peru and South Africa. Most amaryllis bulbs that are available today are hybrids. And botanists classify the hybrids as belonging to the Hippeastrum genus. The bulbs can produce single or double blooms. Flowers vary in size, ranging from the smallest 4-inch blooms to the massive 10-inch blooms. The most popular flower colors are still red and white. However, newer cultivars produce apricot, deep burgundy, pink, rose, and salmon-colored flowers. Bi-colored varieties include picotee (petal edges are a different color than the significant portion of the petal), and green and purple. 

Selecting Amaryllis Bulbs

You will find many sizes of Amaryllis bulbs. Two critical factors will contribute to the success you have in growing Amaryllis, and the size and number of blooms the bulb will produce. Those factors are bulb size and its overall condition. 

Choose the largest bulbs you can find. Larger bulbs will produce more stems and more (and larger) flowers. Be sure the bulbs have a smooth and flawless surface. Look for any signs of blemishes or decay. Feel the entire bulb surface to make sure it is firm and that there are no soft spots. 

Growing Amaryllis Bulbs in Pots (Forcing Them to Bloom) 

Martha Stewart encourages people who are buying Amaryllis bulbs for themselves or giving to people as holiday gifts to purchase them from a trusted supplier – like Green Thumb. Before you plant the bulb, inspect it to make sure that the entire surface is firm to the touch, dry, and free of any blemishes or black spots. 

Remove any dried out or dead roots. Then place the bulb in a shallow bowl that holds enough water to cover the bulb’s healthy and fleshy roots. Let the roots soak for at least an hour. 

Choose a heavy pot that is roughly two inches wider than one bulb’s diameter. The container should have sufficient drainage holes to prevent the bulb from sitting in wet soil. Excessive wetness leads to rotting. 

The growing medium you plant your bulb in should have added organic matter to allow air to circulate throughout the roots and ensure proper drainage. Peat moss and Perlite or Vermiculite will help with drainage and airflow. Add river rocks, pebbles, or sand to the bottom of the pot to balance the weight against a top-heavy stem.  Use a pot shard or coffee filter to prevent soil from escaping from the drainage holes. 

Place the bulb in your container and fill the planter with enough growing mix to cover the lower ⅔ of the bulb. The top third should sit above the soil line. Water your Amaryllis bulb thoroughly and place it in a bright place where the temperature stays consistent between 65 and 70 degrees. After planting, water it sparingly until you see the first signs of new growth. Then you can start watering it regularly. Feed your Amaryllis with a liquid fertilizer, or a time-released pellet fertilizer once a month. 

It typically takes between 6 and 8 weeks from planting for bulbs to bloom. As soon as the flowers start to open, move the plant away from direct sun, and into a cooler area where the temperature hovers around 60 degrees F. Cooler temperatures and indirect light is an effective way to prolong blooming. 

To Grow Amaryllis Bulbs in the Ground

You can plant or transplant an Amaryllis bulb in the ground anytime between September and January. Plant it in partial sun or partial shade to protect it from the most intense sun of the day. Before putting the bulb in the ground, amend the soil with organic matter to improve drainage. Bring your potted Amaryllis outside after the last flower fades. Keep fertilizing it, so new leaves grow. Most Amaryllis bulbs that are planted in the ground will bloom in Spring. Buds emerge, and flowers open before bulbs develop leaves. If you plant an Amaryllis in the ground after forced it indoors, it may take longer for the bulb to store up enough energy to produce new blooms. 

If you would like to buy an Amaryllis bulb for yourself or someone else as a Christmas gift, call us or come into one of our stores. You’ll also find other holiday plants that make lovely gifts for your co-workers, boss, neighbors, friends, or extended family members. As always, our garden experts are available to assist you in finding what you’re looking for or help you select holiday flowering plants to give as gifts or to use as part of your holiday home decorating. 

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