Growing and caring for amaryllis/hippeastrum

Martyn Cox

If you are given a hippeastrum bulb for Christmas or simply fancy growing one to add a splash of colour indoors over winter, then you might just think all you have to do is pot up the bulb and wait for it flower? Well, not quite.

Hippeastrum, which are also known by their common name amaryllis, need special care to bloom, but with a little attention you can ensure that these showy houseplants provide you with a great display year after year.


Choosing a pot

Some bulbs come packaged with a pot, but if not you’ll need one that is deep and wide enough for the roots to sit in comfortably. Place in the centre of a pot – there should be enough room to fit your thumb between the outside of the bulb and the container.

Preparing bulbs for potting

Before planting, take your bulb out of its packaging and remove the papery tunic that covers it. If it doesn’t flake off easily, rub the bulb gently between the palms of your hand.

You’ll notice that there is a mass of long, dry roots at the base of the bulb – to rehydrate the roots, sit the bulb on top of a glass filled with tepid water for about an hour. Make sure the flat bottom of the bulb isn’t in contact with the water or it could lead to rotting.

Potting up hippeastrum

Hippeastrum prefer to grow in well drained compost, so mix a handful of Perlite (available in small bags from garden centres) together with some multipurpose compost, then pour a layer of the mixture into the bottom of your container. Holding the bulb by its long neck, lower the roots in and cover with compost. Unlike most bulbs that need burying two to three times their depth, these should have their neck and shoulders above ground level.

Unless you’ve grown hippeastrum before you’re likely to plant them too deep or too high the first time – if this happens, add or remove some compost from the base and try again.

Looking after hippeastrum

As you’ve already soaked the roots, water the compost lightly then put on a south facing windowsill. Avoid placing directly above a radiator – a cool place is ideal.

As the leaves and flower stalk develop, turn the pot slightly every day so it remains upright, rather than growing at an angle towards the sun. Water the compost regularly to prevent it drying out completely, but avoid overwatering. When the flower buds appear, feed weekly with a weak solution of liquid tomato fertiliser high in potash, such as Tomorite.

What to do when hippeastrum have finished flowering

Many people consign hippeastrum to the rubbish bin after they’ve finished flowering, but with care you can enjoy them for years. After the flower stalk has died back completely, pull it out of the bulb, then keep the plant on a light windowsill during spring. In summer place in a sunny spot outdoors, watering regularly and feeding weekly with a general purpose plant food. After leaves start to yellow in early autumn, bring indoors and allow the compost to dry out completely – during this time the leaves will die back completely. In a few months time the growing process can start all over again.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.