Although amaryllis can be purchased at any stage of development, for many, the real fun is growing the flower from a bulb. Amaryllis flowers about 8 to 10 weeks after planting, in case you’d like them to bloom in time for Christmas! These big bulbs are easy to bring into bloom, and even a novice can expect success.
Like daffodils or tulips, the amaryllis plant starts out as a bulb—often sold as part of a kit containing the bulb, a heavy pot, and some growing medium (ideally, a sterile, soilless planting mix). They are naturally a spring-blooming bulb, producing flowers at some point between late winter and mid-spring (February to April in the Northern Hemisphere). However, amaryllis are commonly forced to bloom earlier in winter, in time for the winter holidays.
After the flowers die back, the plant’s large leaves soak up sunlight for the rest of spring and summer, providing them with the energy they’ll need to bloom again in the following spring. With the arrival of autumn, the leaves die back and the bulb goes dormant until later winter, when the blooming process is begun anew.
Amaryllis… or Not?
Historically, there has been some confusion regarding the name of this plant. Most amaryllis varieties grown today are hybrids and are not “true amaryllis”; they are instead part of the genus Hippeastrum, which are native to tropical parts of South America, from Brazil into the Andes. The true amaryllis—members of the genus Amaryllis—are native to South Africa and are also known as belladonna lilies (despite not being true lilies). That being said, both Hippeastrum and Amaryllis are part of the amaryllis family, so they are all amaryllis in some sense!
The name “amaryllis” comes from the Greek word amarysso, which means “to sparkle.”