Keep your amaryllis reblooming year after year in Buffalo area

Amaryllis Sydney in Buffalo NY
Amaryllis Sydney

Did you know that the beautiful amaryllis you have been enjoying indoors this winter can rebloom next year and the year after that, too?

“I’ve been using the same bulbs through the years,” said Doug O’Reilly, horticulturist and head gardener at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. He has to make sure he has amaryllis flowers– and lots of them– blooming every year for the annual Amaryllis and Cymbidium Exhibit.

The exhibit continues through Feb. 20 at the Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo. About 15 or 20 different varieties are being shown, and he has a total of 500 or 600 specimens on exhibit at one time or another during the show.  As one plant loses its flower, O’Reilly must have another specimen waiting in the wings to replace it.

As you can see from these photos that I took at the exhibit, the flowers can be spectacular even when they have been forced to blossom indoors during the winter in previous years.

Here’s how you can keep your own amaryllis reblooming year after year.

Amaryllis 'Ferrari' in Buffalo NY
Amaryllis ‘Ferrari’

At this time of year, when your plant has lost its bloom, keep watering it, O’Reilly said.

In the summer, put the pot outside and keep watering it, he said. (I learned the hard way that you can’t skip this step. The plant has to work during the summer to store nutrients to recharge the bulb.)

Bonus tip: I have acquired several bulbs over the years and have put them all into one big pot. A big pot tends to retain moisture better so I don’t have to water as often as I would have to if I had them in small, individual pots during the summer.

At the end of August or beginning of of September, bring the pot inside. O’Reilly brings his amaryllis into an unheated garage. There he lets them dry out completely to prepare them for the next step.

Amaryllis 'Apple Blossom' in Buffalo NY
Amaryllis ‘Apple Blossom’

Next he puts the bulbs, still in pots, into a cooler at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. He feels that putting the bulbs into the cooler helps them develop flowers faster.

He let the pots and soil dry out first because if they were damp when they were placed into the cooler, the bulbs would rot, he explained.

Since I have a big pot that’s too big for my refrigerator, I just set the pot in the basement where it’s a bit cooler than the rest of the house, and that works well enough for me. It’s important to O’Reilly that his plants develop flowers fast so that they are ready in time for the amaryllis exhibit. When it comes to my own plants, it doesn’t matter when they bloom. As long as I get some flowers sometime during the winter, I’m happy.

white double flowering amaryllis in Buffalo NY
White double flowering amaryllis

Now comes the key step: When the bulbs are in the cooler or basement, don’t water them. The bulbs will go dormant, O’Reilly explained.

He leaves his plants in the cooler for about two months, taking them out in the middle of November. I leave mine in the basement until I notice new leaves starting to grow. Then I bring them upstairs and place them in a sunny window.

At this point, start watering your amaryllis again. O’Reilly said he fertilizes the plants every other week.

O’Reilly notes that he doesn’t divide his bulbs every year, so he gets offshoots and multiple flower stems growing in one pot, as you can see with the ‘Apple Blossom’. That’s a lovely effect.

Photos by Connie Oswald Stofko

33 Comments on “Keep your amaryllis reblooming year after year in Buffalo area

  1. My amaryllis finished blooming in February and the leaves have grown. I live in Toronto, Ontario. What is my next step so that I can get it to bloom at Christmas? .

  2. Hello Ann and Diane!
    Since both of your questions revolve around AMaryllis foliage, let’s consider them together here.
    Ann, I am so happy to hear of your long-term success in growing these amazing bulbs! Yes, you certainly could remove the broken strappy leaves if they fall over. A better practice is to support those leaves so they don’t break. They are how the bulb recharges itself for the next bloom sequence.
    Diane, I am not sure where you reside and if you may possibly be growing outdoors?
    Long green worms, are probably Amaryllis borer. You want to check the bulbs in the morning as the worms feed mostly at night and tuck themselves in during the day. Hand-picking and dropping them into a container of soapy water is the most humane way to dispose of the worms. Severly damaged leaves should be removed, and hopefully, the bulb has enough energy to replace those leaves. You may have to resort to using a sulfur garden spray (of course wearing suitable P.P.E.) to treat secondary infections.
    A safe spray for many insects is Neem oil. This is a contacticide control. The insects consume the Neem oil, and the active chemical, Azidirachtin, in the neem, suppresses their appetite and disrupts their hormone systems. Basically, they forget to eat, and their growth cycle stops.
    I hope you both find my reply helpful!
    Kind Regards,
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  3. I have 2 original bulbs 8 years old and 2 only 2 years. Each bulb has started a new plant off the same bulb. I water them once a week, put them on the deck after last frost. I live on northeast Ohio. During the summer they bloom again. I bring them in before frost put them in a sunny window and sure enough they bloom starting in late December. The 2 older bulbs had 2 stems of 6 blossoms each. The stems were almost 3 feet tall. I think because we have such cloudy weather I don t need to place them in the dark. What a great treat for so little work.
    I cut back leaves when they flop over and break

  4. Have worms long green worms on the under side of my Amaryllis leaves eat holes in my leaves . Have had Amaryllis for years first time I ever had this problem.

  5. Hi Betsy!
    Thank you for your comment!
    An interesting observation this year on my Amaryllis bulbs is that the leaves are not withering and turning brown.
    In the commercial trade for cut Amaryllis stalks, the leaves are supported by adjustable grids to keep them upright, sometimes 5 feet tall, depending on the variety!
    As the growing season ends, maybe in August, the growers cut all of the foliage off, and then subject the bulbs (they are grown in greenhouses, in wide/deep troughs with media and – here’s the trick! ) The growers have already installed a drip-system watering/fertilizer system, as well as non-perforated water hoses at the root zone.
    They then, continuous flow water at 50°F, using the non-perf hoses at the root zone to induce dormancy – pretty smart! – when the bulbs ‘Wake up’, (as per the production schedule), and show signs of flower stalk growth, the grower managers run warmish water (75°F) through the non-perf tubes to warm the root system and ‘force’ the bulbs to flower just in time for Christmas and January production!
    Personally, I would not enclose them in paper bags, unless you are allowing airflow – similar to leaving them in terracotta pots – as ethylene gas can build up, and kill the flower stalks enclosed within the
    Root pruning is performed right before “potting up for the season”.
    Remove any damaged, brown, thinnish, discolored roots.
    Root pruning length is calculated by the depth of the pot they are going into…After cleaning/combing old media off the roots (chopsticks work well!), I hold the bulb upright, gather the roots together, and clip them off about an inch or two above the depth of the pot they are going into.
    So easy!!
    Wishing you Amaryllis success this year!
    David R. Clark,CNLP

  6. I have a big amaryllis bulb, It’s about 28cm in circumference. I tried to make it dormant by not watering it, but its still with green leaves. My question is, if it is left with the leaves until spring, will it give flowers or it has to be dormant first to flower.
    Hello George!
    Thank you for your comment!
    Holy cow! A 28 cm. diameter bulb converts to 11 inches in diameter! Amazing!
    Where do you hail from?
    So, my bulbs are still outdoors, in their terracotta pots, tipped on the side, so no water can infiltrate – a new technique I am exploring.
    Some folks have very good luck just reducing water, and leaving the existing leaves on, then growing the bulb further to bloom. I think Connie does this with her ‘Appelbloessom’ bulbs.
    There are many thoughts on this “whole dormancy/remove the leaves/dry out/cool temps/or just keep it growing”.
    If your Amaryllis is not throwing flower spikes, then maybe it needs cool dormancy. It may also need to be repotted into ‘maybe’ a scant larger pot – I do recommend terracotta. The existing growing media should be carefully combed out from the root system – I use chopsticks to tease the roots apart and then carefully shake out the existing media.
    I also do root pruning to the length of the existing/new pot.
    There are different growing/production areas in the world for Amaryllis: Holland and South Africa. The bulbs are treated differently for the production areas.
    As I do not know the variety you have, it is a bit difficult for me to prescribe a follow-up plan for you.
    I hope you find this information to be helpful, let me know your thoughts!
    David Clark, CNLP

  7. Betsy, to respond to your question about roots: amaryllis like to be rootbound, says horticulturist David Clark in the article “What you probably don’t know about potting an amaryllis, but wish you did.” But last year David Clark gave us a different way to care for amaryllis that sounds a lot like the way your mother-in-law does it. See “Forcing amaryllis: Were we doing it wrong?” The quick way has worked for me, and I’m a lazy gardener, so I’m sticking with the quick way. Sometimes there is more than one right way to do something. I hope that helps you and doesn’t confuse you!

  8. Hi Connie, I’m so glad that when I Googled Amaryllis your page popped up first! I was on my way to the garden to cut off the leaves from my Amaryllis, then decided I’d better get more info because this is the first summer that the leaves have stayed green. Usually by this time they’ve turned yellow and I’ve already cut them off. I’ve been debating for a couple days about cutting them and just decided to do it.

    In the past . . . my bulbs are 5 or 6 years old . . . I’ve done mine a bit differently. I take them out of the pots, spray the dirt off, cut some of the roots off – always I wonder how much to cut off – bring them indoors and let them dry for a week or so then put them in a paper bag and put them in the basement until they start to sprout. Last year I forgot about them and the stalks were quite tall when I brought them up . . . taller then the paper bag! I have done it this way because that’s how my mother-in-law does hers and hers are always gorgeous!
    Please tell me your opinion of this way. However, I think I’m going to change to yours. It’s easier! But what about all those roots? They are compacted in there.
    So glad I found you! I sighed up for your Tuesday news!

  9. I have a big amaryllis bulb, It’s about 28cm in circumference. I tried to make it dormant by not watering it, but its still with green leaves. My question is, if it is left with the leaves until spring, will it give flowers or it has to be dormant first to flower.

  10. Hi Judy!
    No problem if you are new to Amaryllis! It took me a long time to “almost figure it out”…I welcome your question!
    So at this point, your Amaryllis is probably done blooming. You do want to leave the foliage intact. You can grow it as a houseplant with as much light as possible, and fertilizing from March through September. You want to use a fertilizer with the first number low and the next 2 numbers higher, i.e. 5-10-10, 5-30-15, 2-3-5, African violet fertilizer, Bloom Booster, etc. You can use either a water-soluble type or a granular type (a tablespoon per pot). You can also opt to put the plant, pot and all, in the ground in your garden where it gets plenty of light. I would slip a nylon stocking up over the bottom of the pot to keep worms and other insects from taking up residence in the container.
    Grow the plant on through the summer, and then in August or September withhold water and prepare the bulb for dormancy. Store dry, in a coolish place (around 50°F) for at least 2 months. At this point, you can remove the dried foliage, repot into fresh soil, or topdress the existing pot. Give it a good drink of water and watch the magic happen again. It can take 6-8 weeks for flowers to appear…keep it on the dry side (maybe a 1/2 cup of water per bulb) weekly, and maybe a bit of fertilizer (1/4 strength) once you see signs of growth.
    I wish you success on your project!
    David Clark, CNLP

  11. Ok I’m new at this. So you don’t cut off the leaves so do they die off when they go dorment & then do you clean up the base of the bulb when you bring it back out of the basement

  12. Hello Christine!
    “Holland Star” is a stunning amaryllis variety with bold red blossoms, highlighted by a wondrous white star in the center! Your bulb is growing as it should!
    As the name suggests, this is a Holland variety, not a South African type-the two have different growth patterns. Holland bulbs do produce their sturdy stalks ahead of the leaf production, while African bulbs have the tendency to show leaves before blooming.
    You bulb is right on, and happy to hear you have two stalks!
    As each blossom fades, cut it off the thick stalk at the tip, while leaving the stalk intact until it dies down naturally. Then follow the tips in the above article or in our other articles on post-blooming amaryllis care.

  13. Hi
    I bought an Amaryllis in a home hardware store. Bulb and container. It is blooming beautiful right now in January
    Named “Holland Star”
    Two stalks lots of blooms but no leaves??? What does that mean? Hope you can give me some advise. So glad I found this site. I have bought these for my mother many years ago. I did not know they would keep from year to year. We are about an hr or so west of Buffalo.

  14. I live in Phoenix, Arizona……. I have been enjoying the blooms of an Amaryllis that I purchased in late October.
    Now,…… what do I do ? Our climate is a bit different than western New York. Until April, we enjoy beautiful temps outdoors ( 60 to 71 degrees ) By May we have air-conditioned homes and temps pushing 90 degrees outside. Shall I replant into a pot and leave on the patio for our mild winter and spring temps ?
    Help !!

    Thank you

  15. I was disgusted with my amarilis as it hadn’t bloomed in the last three years, so this past summer I took it outside and watered it when I thought about it! When I left for a two week vacation in October, I put it in a warm dark tool shed and forgot about it. Upon my return, I needed a tool and saw my poor plant was as white as a sheet, but had grown tall and had a huge flower stalk growing! I took it in the house, watered and fertilized it, put it in the sun and in a short time, it gave me not four, but five gorgeous blooms!!! It was beautiful! So don’t despair – I am no green thumb. Thanks for reading.

  16. I “rescued” two bulbs at Wegman’s just after Christmas when they were marked down. One was already growing and the 6-8″ stalk was curled around inside the box. I potted it up and it took off! Four beautiful deep red blooms and the stalk straightened out just fine. The other one planted at the same time is showing healthy leaves so far. I’m going to feed it as your directions indicate. So nice to see something colorful and alive at this time of year. Thanks for the article.

  17. After two sad amaryllis comments, it’s good to hear a story with a happy ending! This process worked for me, too. I have a red amaryllis that’s just opening today.

  18. I have been using this method for at least 5 years and my amaryllis are doing so well — almost too well. I’m running out of window space to show off my blooms!

  19. Oh, no! What an exciting story– reblooming in the same year! Then comes the tragic ending for the super plant. Too bad. Thanks for sharing.

  20. We had an amaryllis that bloomed in the house and then we planted it in the garden that summer and it bloomed again. So the deer ate it.

  21. Ruth,
    Oh, how sad! I’m not sure what to say. I guess I would think back along the process and see if there is anything you might have missed, or if you did anything differently from the years when you did get blooms. Did you water your plants enough over the summer? Did you stop watering them in the fall long enough? Is the window where you have them now sunny enough? And of course, what did you do during the years you had blooms that you didn’t do this year? I wish you more success next year.

  22. I did exactly what you said and all 7 of my amaryllis bulbs only had leaves. Including the 1bulb that bloomed the last 3 years.

Comments are closed.