Amaryllis Bulbs

Learn the ins and outs of growing and dividing hardy amaryllis bulbs.
Amaryllis belladonna  (03) Habit

Amaryllis belladonna (03) Habit

Photo by: Courtesy of National Gardening Association

Courtesy of National Gardening Association

Amaryllis belladonna

Dig into the easy-growing beauty of amaryllis bulbs. Goofproof and tough as nails, hardy amaryllis bulbs stage a colorful show that demands little in the way of upkeep. Amaryllis bulbs for the garden include St. Joseph’s lily (Hippeastrum x johnsonii), as well as belladonna lilies (Amaryllis belladonna), which are also known as naked ladies.  

Some old-time gardeners even toss oxblood lily into the hardy amaryllis mix, since twice in its botanical career it’s had an amaryllis name (Hippeastrum advenum and Amaryllis advena). A few other hardy amaryllis bulbs you’ll run across include ‘Miss Red’ amaryllis (Hippeastrum ‘Miss Red’), with solid red blooms, ‘Voodoo’ amaryllis (Hippeastrum ‘Voodoo’), which opens red flowers with a white star pattern and ‘Wedding Dance’ amaryllis (Hippeastrum ‘Wedding Dance’), with pure white blossoms.  

Amaryllis bulbs are a snap to plant and a cinch to grow. The trickiest part of adding amaryllis bulbs to your garden may be getting your hands on some. One of the hardiest amaryllis bulbs, St. Joseph’s lily, is most widely available as a passalong plant—one you get from someone else. In this age of the internet, online auction sites provide one means of finding these amaryllis bulbs. You can also find reputable specialty bulb companies online that sell St. Joseph’s lily.  

Belladonna lilies and oxblood lilies fall into the same category as hardy amaryllis bulbs. Sometimes you’ll find a few at a garden center, but most often the way to get these amaryllis bulbs is from other gardeners, plant swaps or local plant club sales.  

Happily, once you get your hands on these hardy amaryllis bulbs, they’re not difficult to plant. The most important thing is to make sure you tuck the bulb into soil at the same depth it was at before. If this isn’t readily visible on the stem or neck of the bulb, then aim to plant it three times as deep as the bulb is wide. One of the quickest ways to ruin the flower show of these hardy amaryllis bulbs is by planting them too deeply.  

Unlike many other bulbs, when your clump of hardy amaryllis becomes thick with bulbs, you won’t see a drop in the flower number. These beauties pump out blooms regardless of how crammed the clump is with bulbs. A fat and happy clump of amaryllis bulbs, though, does provide an opportunity for sharing the wealth—even if you merely intend to spread the beauty around your own yard.  

The best time of year to dig amaryllis bulbs is after the leaves start to yellow and die back—from late summer to mid-fall. Take care to dig wide around the clump to avoid spearing and slicing bulbs. Try to dig 6 to 8 inches beneath the clump, so you’ll have ample soil with roots. Once your clump is free, you should be able to pull outer bulbs away from the main clump rather easily. Be sure to plant all bulbs, regardless of size. Small bulbs grow fast.

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