by Connie Oswald Stofko
I have a bunch of amaryllis bulbs in two large pots, and I would like to separate them and move some into another pot. I asked David Clark, nationally and internationally known gardening educator, for some tips.
His first suggestion: Don’t do it.
“Amaryllis likes to be root-bound,” Clark said. He told me that if I separate the bulbs, they may not flower this year.
While I hear his warning, those bulbs have been crammed into those pots for years, and new bulbs have formed. I really think I would like to move some of the new bulbs.
I’m glad I asked Clark how to do it because he gave me some great advice.
Timing is important
If you want to divide or repot your amaryllis bulbs, do it at the beginning of the growth cycle.
If you just got an amaryllis plant that bloomed over the holidays or is blooming now, it’s not at the right stage for repotting. Wait until next year.
Follow these steps to get your plant ready for reblooming inside next winter.
Continue to grow the plant as a houseplant in the best light you have, Clark said, and give it some balanced plant fertilizer. When the flower has finished blooming, you can cut off the stem so the plant doesn’t look ugly.
However, don’t cut off the leaves! That’s very important. The plant needs the leaves to store up energy over the summer.
In the spring, when the danger of frost has passed and night temperatures are at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, put the plant outside. You’re going to keep it outside all summer.
Here are a couple tips to help you get your plant through the summer.
First, you can put many bulbs in one big pot. That has worked well for me. A big pot will retain water better than a smaller pot, so you won’t have to water it as often when it’s hot and dry outside during the summer.
However, in the winter, those pots take up a lot of room in my house. It would be nice to have just one amaryllis in its own pot that could be displayed on a tabletop without having to clear everything else away. And if you’re starting with just one amaryllis, you don’t want to transplant it into a large pot– Remember, they like to be root-bound. But during the summer, a small pot outside in hot, dry weather needs to be watered every single day, maybe twice a day. Are you really going to do that?
Clark suggests taking the plant, pot and all, and setting it into the ground. It will look like another plant in your garden.
That’s brilliant! The plant will lose moisture a little more slowly if the pot is surrounded by moist soil than if the pot is exposed to drying breezes. Still, make sure you give it lots of water, and fertilize it during the summer. The plant is storing up energy and forming the flower spike inside the bulb.
Bonus tip: Before you put the pot into the ground, slip a nylon stocking over the pot to keep worms out of the drainage hole– The worms will eat organic matter and the potting medium, Clark said.
Keep your amaryllis plant outside all summer, and when the nights get down to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, bring the plant inside, Clark said.
At that point, you want the plant to go dormant. Leave the bulb in the pot. Put the pot in a cool place, such as a basement. Tropical plants go dormant in temperatures that are about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t water the plants and don’t fertilize them. The leaves will die, and that’s okay.
Around the end of January or beginning of February, you’ll start to see signs of life. A green thing will emerge from the neck of the bulb.
When you see that, you can divide your bulbs.
How to divide or repot your amaryllis bulbs
If you followed all those steps last year, your plant should be at the beginning of the growth cycle or near the beginning of the growth cycle. You’ll have brown, crisp, dry leaves with something green poking out of the neck of the bulb. This is the time when you can divide your bulbs.
(If you don’t have that green thing poking out of the neck of the bulb yet, just wait a little longer. Mine weren’t doing anything yesterday, and today I have one sprout.)
Choose a new pot that will give your bulb one-half inch or one inch on each side of the bulb– The pot shouldn’t be roomier than that, Clark said.
Terra cotta pots work best because amaryllis plants like dryish conditions, he said, and the terra cotta will let the root structure breathe. They like deeper, narrower pots.
You can remove any dried roots from the bulb. You can also trim the roots if needed so they fit into the new pots.
Put the bulb in a bowl of water so just the root plate– the bottom of the bulb where the roots emerge– is in the water. Let it soak for 12 hours.
The message the plant is getting is that this is the rainy season in its native land, Clark explained, and it should start to grow.
Plant your bulb into the new pot. You can use a soilless potting medium or potting soil; a soilless medium will dry out faster.
Plant the bulb so about two-thirds is covered with dirt; don’t pant the bulb all the way up to the neck.
Water until the water comes out of the drainage hole.
Don’t water the pot again until the soil is dry 1 ½ inches down, Clark said. You can test the soil by inserting a chopstick or pencil. Moisture will turn the chopstick a darker color, he said. Of course, you can also use your finger.
When the soil is dry 1 ½ inches down, add one-quarter cup of water around the edge of the bulb.
“More water at the beginning of the cycle will produce more leaves,” Clark said, “but by withholding moisture, you’re forcing the flower stalk to grow taller than the leaves.”
Give your plant good light.
You can put multiple bulbs into one pot as long as they are nestled and don’t have too much extra room. For a nicer look, plant three bulbs in one pot rather than two, Clark noted.
Enjoy the flowers as long as they last. Again, you can cut off the withered flower, but don’t cut off the leaves.
See amaryllis flowers at the Botanical Gardens
The Amaryllis exhibit is under way now from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily through Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo.
Entrance to the exhibit is included with regular admission to the Botanical Gardens: $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (ages 55 and older) and students (ages 13 and older with ID), $5 for children ages 3-12 and free for Botanical Gardens members and children 2 and under.
Learn more from David Clark
Clark teaches four courses of entertaining and informative horticulture classes at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. You can sign up for an entire course or just take a single class. You don’t have to take the classes in any particular order. Seating is limited. Find out more here.
Clark can also speak to your group. Get more details.
- Amaryllis Bulbs Propagation: Separating Amaryllis Bulbs And Offsets
- Amaryllis Bulbs Propagation Through Seeds
- Separating Amaryllis Bulbs and Offsets
- Propagating an Amaryllis Bulb Through Cuttage
- Potting Up Baby Amaryllis Bulb
- Amaryllis Repotting Guide – When And How To Repot Amaryllis Plants
- About Amaryllis Plants
- When to Repot an Amaryllis
- How to Repot Amaryllis
- Let it bloom
- How to Replant Amaryllis Bulbs
Amaryllis Bulbs Propagation: Separating Amaryllis Bulbs And Offsets
Amaryllis is a popular plant grown in many homes and gardens. Amaryllis can be easily propagated from seed, but is most often accomplished by way of offsets or cuttage of amaryllis bulblets.
Amaryllis Bulbs Propagation Through Seeds
While you can propagate amaryllis by seed, it will take them at least three to five years to mature, or flower. You should look for seedpods within four weeks of flowering. Once the pods are ready to harvest, they will turn yellow and begin splitting open. Gently shake out the black seeds into pots or flats.
Seeds should be sown in shallow well-draining soil and lightly covered. Place them in partial shade and keep the soil moist, gradually adding more light as they grow.
Generally, the seedlings can be thinned as needed and then transplanted into the garden or larger pots within a year.
Separating Amaryllis Bulbs and Offsets
Since seed-grown plants may not produce exact replicas
of their parents, most people prefer to propagate the offsets.
Amaryllis offsets can be dug up and divided once the foliage dies down in fall. Carefully lift the clumps from the ground with a shovel or garden fork or slide the plants out of their container, whatever the case may be.
Separate individual bulbs and look for firm bulblets that are at least a third the size of the mother bulb. Trim back the foliage to about 2 or 3 inches above the main bulb and gently snap off the bulblets with your finger. If desired, you may use a knife to cut them off instead. Replant offsets as soon as possible.
Propagating an Amaryllis Bulb Through Cuttage
You can also propagate amaryllis by way of cuttage. The best time to do this is between midsummer and fall (July to November).
Select bulbs that are at least 6 inches in diameter and cut them vertically into four (or more) pieces, depending on the bulb’s size—larger pieces usually grow quicker. Each section should have at least two scales.
Apply fungicide and then plant them with the basal plate facing down. For cuttage grown plants, cover a third of each piece with the moist soil. Place the container in a shady area and keep it moist. In about four to eight weeks, you should begin to notice small bulblets forming between the scales, with leaf sprouts following shortly thereafter.
Potting Up Baby Amaryllis Bulb
When replanting your amaryllis bulblets, choose pots that are at least a couple inches larger than the bulb’s diameter. Repot baby amaryllis bulb in well-draining potting soil mixed with peat moss, sand or perlite. Leave the bulblet sticking halfway out of the soil. Water lightly and place it in a partially shaded location. You should see signs of growth within three to six weeks.
This mother bulb has produced 3 babies, two of which are ready to divide.
With time, most amaryllis bulbs produce offsets (secondary bulbs) that you can remove and pot up individually. Some varieties naturally produce many “babies”, others very few. The better the plant is maintained, though, the more likely it is to produce offsets, so give your amaryllis as much sunlight as possible and fertilize regularly during its growing season if you want to see more bulbs.
The best time to divide an amaryllis is in the fall, during its dormancy, especially just as it begins to wake up and you see new leaves appear.
But very young offsets may not yet be ready to divide. Wait until they have at least 2 or 3 leaves, a sign that they are mature enough to live on their own.
When the time is right, unpot the mother plant and pull downwards on the baby bulb. It ought to give way readily and detach from the mother bulb. Ideally it will already have a few roots of its own. Now repot the large bulb back into its original pot or a pot of a similar size. Plant the young bulbs in smaller pots, perhaps 4 inch (10 cm) ones. Later, when they begin to fill their pot, you can repot them into larger ones.
Some amaryllis grow quickly and their babies will begin to bloom the second year after you divide them. Others take more time: 3, 4 or even 5 years. Remember that good growing conditions make a huge difference: intense sunlight and abundant fertilization will help stimulate rapid growth and the earliest possible blooms.
Do You Really Want to Divide?
Hippeastrum ‘Pamela’ with many bulbs in the same pot: what a show!
Traditionally amaryllis are grown in individual pots, that is, one bulb per pot. But there is nothing wrong with letting the babies continue to develop next to the mother bulb. Simply repot into a larger pot so the colony will have room to develop. Over time, you’ll have a forest of flowers in one big pot and that can be spectacular!
Repot your amaryllis into the larger pot at about the same season you would normally divide it, that is, towards the end of its period of dormancy.
To divide or not to divide? The choice is yours!
Basic Amaryllis Culture
So much for what to do with baby amaryllis bulbs. To learn more on how to successfully grow an amaryllis, from choosing a bulb to potting it up to getting it to rebloom, read It’s Amaryllis Time.
Amaryllis Repotting Guide – When And How To Repot Amaryllis Plants
The pretty lily-like amaryllis is a popular choice for a houseplant. In a pot it makes a striking decoration indoors with a choice of colors from white or pink to orange, salmon, red, and even bicolored. This bulb does not require a huge pot, but once it reaches a certain size, you will need to repot it in something bigger.
About Amaryllis Plants
Amaryllis is a perennial bulb, but isn’t very hardy. It will grow outdoors as a perennial only in zones 8-10. In cooler climates, this pretty flower is generally grown as a houseplant, with a forced winter blooming. If you thought that one winter bloom was all you would get from your plant, though, consider repotting amaryllis to get many years of lovely flowers.
When to Repot an Amaryllis
Many people get an amaryllis in the winter, around the holidays, sometimes as a gift. Unlike similar holiday plants, you don’t need to toss your amaryllis after it blooms. You can keep it and let it re-bloom next year. The post-bloom time may seem like the right time to repot it, but it’s not. If you want to get blooms next year, keep it in the same pot and keep it lightly watered and fertilized.
The right time for amaryllis repotting is actually at the beginning of its growth cycle, in early fall. You’ll know it’s ready to be repotted when the leaves have browned and crisped, and a little bit of fresh, green growth is emerging from the bulb. Now you can move it to another pot if you need to.
How to Repot Amaryllis
When repotting amaryllis, consider the size carefully. This is a plant that does best when root bound, so you only need to repot if the bulb is starting to get very close to the edge of the container. You can also have several bulbs in one container because they like to be root bound. Aim for a pot that gives your bulb, or bulbs, about one inch (2.54 cm.) of space to each side.
Remove the bulb and trim off any roots if needed for fitting in the new container. Set the bulb in water, just up to the roots, and let it soak for about 12 hours. This will speed blooming. After soaking the roots, plant your bulb in the new container, leaving about a third of the bulb uncovered by the soil. Continue to water and tend to your plant as it grows and you will get new winter blooms.
Let it bloom
This amaryllis bulb is ready to flower. It should be potted with its nose above the soil line.
Photo by Marian St. Clair
Amaryllis plants are such popular holiday gifts, they’re even available for purchase as kits, complete with bulb, pot and soil. Not only are these large, tough bulbs easy to grow, they produce spectacular flowers in shades of red, pink, orange and white that last for weeks indoors, a dramatic addition to holiday decor.
Sadly, these showy plants are often treated as throwaways or suffer a slow death after blooming during the depths of the post-holiday winter. But, with some basic care, amaryllis (of the genus Hippeastrum) can be enjoyed for years. Transplanted into your landscape, they become spring-blooming garden bulbs. The secret is to preserve the foliage for several months after the blooms wither.
If you’re given a bare bulb (and self-gifting counts!), plant it before its bloom spike emerges, so its roots have time and space to grow. The large bulbs don’t need much room; a container 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than the base of the bulb will suffice. Using a container with drainage holes and a high-quality, well-drained potting mix, plant the bulb with its “nose” dry—the top third of the bulb above the soil line—to help prevent disease.
Water the newly planted bulb to saturate the soil. Developing roots need moisture, but not a lot. Let the surface of the soil become dry to the touch before watering, then water about once a week when flowering begins. Temperatures around 65 F will prolong bloom time. Fertilizing before bloom can injure young roots, so wait until all flowers die and leaves are fully emerged.
Once the flowers fade, the show is over—but the bulb is not! This is the time to start prepping the plant for a spring move to the garden. Cut off the flower stalk just above the bulb, being careful not to damage the bulb or surrounding foliage. You’re encouraging growth at this point—the green, strap-shaped leaves that remain are essential for recharging the bulb with the energy needed to bloom again.
Keep the soil slightly damp, and begin monthly applications of liquid houseplant fertilizer. Don’t let the plant dry out completely.
Provide as much light as possible—at least four hours of direct sunlight each day, preferably in a south-facing window. A home temperature that’s comfortable for you also benefits amaryllis; bulbs prefer 70 to 75 F for root and foliage growth.
Once the weather warms in the spring and there is no more risk of frost, move your amaryllis plant outside, gradually transitioning it to a sunny spot. Now it can be planted in your landscape.
Select a sunny spot with afternoon shade. Amaryllis prefer rich, well-drained soil. Plant at the same depth as in the container, again with about a third of the bulb’s nose exposed. If you have more than one bulb, space them 1 foot apart.
You can help your plant develop stronger roots and larger blooms by applying a “bulb booster” fertilizer at planting and each year after flowering. A layer of mulch in the winter will protect the bulbs from cold, but remove the mulch in the spring to expose the nose.
In the landscape, amaryllis will return to their natural cycle of spring flowering, and the foliage will remain all summer. Year after year, your amaryllis bulb will be a gift that keeps on giving.
S. Cory Tanner is an area horticulture agent for Clemson Extension based in Greenville County. Email him here.
How to Replant Amaryllis Bulbs
amaryllis image by Laura Lupton from Fotolia.com
The amaryllis is a bulb plant that is easy to force into bloom. The beauty of the flowers that come in a variety of colors including red, white, pink, salmon, orange and striped and the large size of the blooms make them a popular winter plant. Often they are forced into bloom at Christmas and used to help celebrate the holiday season. The heads of the amaryllis are large and the flower stems are often tall making these flowers popular in cut arrangements. Once your bulb has flowered, don’t throw the bulb away. With a little care and attention you can enjoy your amaryllis more than once.
Cut the amaryllis flower heads from the top of the stems once the flowers have died back. Use garden shears or a sharp garden knife. Continue to water your plant with the rest of your plants. When the flower stem starts to sag, cut it back to the top of the bulb.
Water and fertilize your amaryllis for five to six months. You want the leaves of the plant to develop and feed strength into the bulb for the next flowering season. When the leaves begin to yellow in the early fall, cut the leaves back to 2 inches above the top of the bulb.
Remove the bulb carefully from the planter. Clean off the soil. Place the bulb in a dark, cool place such as the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Set the crisper temperature to 40 to 50 degrees F. Store the bulbs for a minimum of six weeks. Bring the bulbs out to plant them eight weeks before you want them to bloom. During the time you have the bulbs in your refrigerator you cannot place any apples in the refrigerator as they will sterilize your bulbs.
Plant your bulb in a pot filled with potting mix for bulbs. The roots of the bulb are tender so be gentle when arranging them in the pot. Fill in around the roots and bulb all the way up to the neck of the plant. Press the soil firmly to remove any air pockets.
Place the potted bulb in 68 to 70 degrees F in direct sunlight. Water lightly until the flower stem appears. As the bud and leaves appear you can gradually add more water. Once it begins to grow it will usually grow quickly. The flowers should bloom in seven to 10 weeks.