Amaryllis reminder: Don’t cut off the leaves

'Star of Holland' amaryllis at Buffalo Botanical Gardens by Stofko
‘Star of Holland’ amaryllis at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Many of you may have received an amaryllis bulb or plant over the holidays, and you’d like to get it to rebloom indoors next year. It’s not hard to do.

However, I’ve heard from a couple people that they were told to cut back the plant after it has finished blooming.

Don’t do that!

You need to keep the leaves on the plant. Through photosynthesis, the leaves will work to recharge the bulb. The plant needs the energy stored in the bulb to produce a new flower next year. If you cut off the leaves, you’re weakening your plant.

You can cut off the stem if you want, but make sure you keep the leaves in place.

Water the plant while it’s blooming and keep watering the plant when the bloom is done.

When the danger of frost has passed, place the pot outside. Make sure you keep it watered well. Tip: I have several bulbs in one large pot; a large pot won’t dry out as fast as a small pot will.

Around the beginning of September, bring the pot inside. Sometimes I leave mine outside until the leaves die. I put mine in my basement where it’s a little cooler. Stop watering the plant. If they haven’t already, the leaves will die and that’s okay. You want the plant to go dormant.

Usually after Christmas, I notice that the plant has started growing again. I bring the pot upstairs, put it in a sunny window and start watering it again.

Get a few more details and see more photos in this previous article on amaryllis.

63 Comments on “Amaryllis reminder: Don’t cut off the leaves

  1. I made the mistake of cutting off all but one leaf on my amaryllis after it bloomed. Will the remaining one leaf be adequate to produce enough nutrients for the bulb?

  2. My amaryllis has leaves and a flower stalk is beginning to grow. The flower growth has been slow. Will it bloom?

  3. Hi David,
    Wow! Thank you so very much for the incredibly detailed and thoughtful reply! Your description of horror-stricken couldn’t have been more apt, so yes, sigh of relief. Seems that plants, too, have an instinct for survival and don’t actually like to die. 🙂

    You have indeed answered my questions – and a few others, too! (Like, what was that red stuff at the top of the stalks after after I cut the leaves?) It hasn’t spread so hoping the fungus was incidental to “the severing.” Unfortunately, I’m not sure how old the bulbs are – but they were huge to begin with and bloomed multiple stalks each, so I’m inclined to say they were at least in their second season. I’d already planted in large pots for that reason (yay, did that right!) and I’ll try all of your wonderful tips to help them thrive and keep the gnats at bay.

    I’ll let you know how it turns out! Many thanks again for all the information!

  4. Hello!
    For all and for new folks that may have just found Buffalo-Niagara Gardening, and that grow Amaryllis well, or maybe not – that is ok!
    Gardening is a learning experience. There are no failures, only opportunities for future success!
    I will point you to another article that I collaborated on with Connie:
    “Forcing amaryllis: Were we doing it wrong?”
    Good, sound growing tips here from me.
    Kind Regards,
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  5. Hello Kelly Rowland!
    Thank you for your location information, that is always helpful when answering gardening questions.
    Oh my! You must have been horror-stricken when you realized what you had done after reading the article!
    Never fear, you did not kill your Amaryllis bulb. You may have set it back a bit, but you have not caused its demise! Yay! Breathe!
    I am wondering if they are first-year/new bulbs or if they been in your possession for more than a year. Older/mature bulbs may fare better in this situation but all is not lost for new bulbs.
    My next steps for you would be to get the bulb growing vegetatively and giving it a very good environment to do this.
    Increase the watering, but not to keep sopping wet. It is ok to let them dry to about an inch below the soil surface, then water again. Don’t let them sit in water in their saucer for more than 2 hours. Remove any decorative pot covers. I would also recommend that you transfer it to a same-size diameter terracotta pot and one that is deeper than wide.
    Give it a1x 1/4 strength all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer application to help it push new foliage, i.e.: 20-20-20, 15-15-15, 2-3-4. These are nutrient numbers that you see on fertilizer packaging. As it continues to grow, you can do this 2x per month, then constant feed outdoors. Give it the best light you can, and plan to put it outdoors, in a full sun exposure once spring night temperatures are above 55°F. You are then going to grow it as an outdoor plant until you induce dormancy around the 1-15th of August.
    Good to see that the potting media is soil-based! Better nutrient control, and the peatmoss will aid in moisture and nutrient retention.
    Forward to the Fungus gnat infestation that you and many other indoor gardeners are experiencing, I am too! Fungus gnat eggs are present in many soils, commercial or even from your home garden. Then gnats practically explode when soils are kept too wet, or have been over-watered. The larvae feed on microscopic algae cells in the top 1/2″ of soil. Many generations in a few days! Pesky things!
    Control for this: yes, reduce watering frequency as you have. I plant my bulbs a bit deep in the pots, so that I can add about an 1″ of grit or gravel on the soil surface.
    This does two things: reduces water splashing on the bulb itself to avoid Red Blotch fungus. Increases fast draining of the upper soil surface, and more importantly, shades the top level of the soil from the light that causes the algal cells to grow in the first place. Easy fix! Once the larvae to through several instars, they can feed on the root system of the plant, forward to the pupae stage, hatch and then the whole cycle starts again.
    A good control is a Neem oil soil drench maybe once a week until control is achieved. You can also mist the soil surface with the Neem as critters emerge. Again, do not keep your bulbs wet! Many hail from South Africa and Brazil for the Papilio varieties.
    I also employ a product called “Mosquito Bits”. These are shredded corncob “bits” that have been inoculated with a harmless, naturally occurring bacteria, Bacillius thuringiensis. The bacteria move from the cobs to populate the growing media. It infects the fungus gnat larvae, causing them to perish. Safe for pets, worms, beneficial insects, monitor children only for the visual appeal.
    So Kelly, persevere and move forward. Gardening situations like this are a chance to learn and refine your skills.
    I hope I have answered your question.

    Kind regards,
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  6. Good day! I live in Rochester and just two days ago, trimmed the leaves of my two beautiful amaryllis (thinking I was doing the right thing!). Now, of course, I’ve run across this article and realized my mistake. Can a bulb recover from such trauma if I were to put it in a sunny spot and try to allow it to grow?

    Secondly, it seems we’ve acquired tiny gnats that seem to embed in the top-most layers of the bulb and come out en masse when I water (though I’ve been very reserved in the watering I do). The soil is a combo peat-moss and regular soil, bought from a reputable local gardening store. Any recommendations for eliminating them? Many thanks for this wonderful thread and information!

  7. Hello Gina Reger!
    I am sorry to hear of the issue of all the leaves falling off of your amaryllis.
    Perhaps we can investigate this further.
    I read that you cut the “pod” off as the flowers have passed their prime.
    I have had good results just by cutting off each individual flower from the stalk. When all the flowers have been removed, this signals the bulb to absorb the sap in the flower stalk. I leave the now spent flower stalk intact until it withers down and turns yellow. Then I cut off only that stalk, right above where it emerged from the bulb.
    As to your leaves “falling”, I’m not quite sure what you mean. However, some Amaryllis bulbs will produce leaves, at the same time of the flower stalk, especially if you keep them very moist. I grow mine on the verge of “desert dryness” while they are shooting up the stalk (meaning only 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water at a time). I do not water again until the potting mix is dry down to 1.5″ to 2″. The more water you give, the more the bulb will push leaves, as opposed to flower stalk length and flower quality.
    So, I am thinking that you were very nice to your bulb, and gave it lots of water…not a problem. You always want to have 3 or 4 tall bamboo stakes or dowels accessible to support the leaves by wrapping twine around those stakes.
    My tieing technique: maybe 5 feet of twine. I tie the twine on a stake, leaving a 3″ tail on the Noon position. The stakes are inserted into the pot equidistant around. Think of a clock face: Noon, 6 p.m., 3 p.m, 9 p.m.
    Now, go to the 3 p.m. stake, wrap the twine around the stake 2 times, pulling it pretty taught from the Noon stake. Now proceed to the 6 p.m. stake and wrap the twine around 2 times, again pulling it taught. Make sure the leaves are supported at the base during this step. Continue to the 9 p.m. position doing the same, then to the Noon stake, your starting position. Tie the twine to the 3″ tail you originally created.
    Now, move vertically up the Noon stake several inches and repeat the knotting, wrapping, all around, to all the stakes. Continue this until those very long leaves are supported almost to the top. We want to create a graceful water fountain-look effect, NOT tortuously binding the leaves.
    This procedure protects the structural integrity of the leaves while allowing for maximum light exposure for photosynthesis. The bulb is starting to recharge itself for next year’s bloom cycle. At this point, your potted Amaryllis is to be located in the brightest light window you have, hopefully, a south or west exposure.
    Water freely at this point, 1/4 strength plant fertilizer once a month can be added to the schedule. Grow the plant on, until it can safely be put outdoors in full sun, once late spring temperatures have arrived, and no chance of frost.
    I hope that I answered your question and that maybe I shared a couple of new techniques for you to learn.
    For further information, search this website for my article, “Growing Amaryllis, Have We Been Doing It Wrong”
    Kind regards for a Blessed Shiny New 2021!
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  8. I just cut the flower pod off as the flowers have all gone by, I have always done this. Now my leaves have all fallen. Why has this happened? Help!

  9. Hi Ralph, if you live in Western New York, your amaryllis should be dormant now. Around January, you will see sprouts. Take the plant out of your basement, put it where it gets light and start watering it. The leaves will grow back and you should get flowers. When the flower is gone, cut the stem. Don’t cut the leaves. Put the plant outside for the summer. In autumn, put the plant in a cool, dry space and stop watering. The leaves will die back. In January, you will see sprouts again. If you live outside of WNY, contact the extension service in your area. I hope that helps.

  10. I CAN’T seem to get a straight answer to my questions, after my indoor plants have bloomed I cut the stems off, now what do I do with the tall leaves that keep growing. At what point do i let the bulb go dormant and do I cut the leaves off or leave them on and put the bulb In a cool dry place. CAN’T seem to get a direct answer

  11. Hi Mary Ann, in Western New York, you should have brought your amaryllis plants inside already. If you live in a different part of the country, contact the extension service in your area. I hope that helps!

  12. Guess I just killed all my Amaryllis. I thought I recalled to cut off all folage for holiday blooming. These are old plants that are potted outside. Will they now rot and die. I don’t know why I did this..the folage on some was beautiful.

  13. It took three years before I had my first bloom! I’ve never really let the plants go dormat before. They bloom now towards the end of February. But some of my leaves are almost 3 feet long! I don’t want to cut them off, but can I trim them back? My cats are going to damage them if I don’t.

  14. Hi CS –
    Well that is a conundrum!
    So, both are plants….I am thinking that shortly you are going to put the Amaryllis bulb to dormancy anyway, so no worries…
    Keep me posted!!!

  15. Hi I have an amaryllis bulb that has sprouted 3 new beautiful leaves but my crazy husband decided to put a marijuana seed in it I noticed 2 leaves drooping he didn’t tell me until today so I cut the drooping leaves and ripped the marijuana seed out now i have 1 leave will my amaryllis plant be ok

  16. Hello Patricia!
    Sometimes a leaf will die, but the bulb should push another one out to replace it. Losing multiple leaves may point to an underlying issue…
    Hopefully you are growing your Amaryllis outside now… the full sun is important to recharge the bulb for future flowering. If not outside yet, introduce it slowly to the sunny spot, as the existing foliage may get a bit of sunburn.
    Indoors, it is easy to overwater Amaryllis, that could cause foliar loss….if they are turning yellow, that could be a sign of too much water.
    If the bulb’s pot is inside a decorative outer pot with no drainage, then remove it from the outer one.
    If the potting media is dark and smelly, then you may have to replace it with fresh. I use primarily a soilless mix, and add in a handful of compost, a handful of good old garden soil/clay, and a handful of perlite. Mix it all up and repot the bulb in the same pot as it has been in. Give it a good watering until excess water flows from the drainage holes in the pot. (I do prefer terra-cotta pots for mine, deeper than wider…and no more than 1″ larger than the bulb’s diameter – they like cramped growing conditions.)
    Wait a week, and give the bulb a feeding with any balanced liquid fertilizer, like 20-20-20, 18-18-18.
    Move the bulb outside and grow it as garden plant – they can take copious watering outdoors.
    You should be good to go from this point forward.
    For further information, please refer to my other article on Buffalo-Niagara Gardening here:
    Many thanks for your question!
    David Clark, CNLP

  17. I had 5 leaves on my plant very healthy, now one has died and I have another one dying is this normal. Had the plant since just before Christmas hoping to get it to bloom again. I keep watering it should I continue watering.

  18. Hi Julie, it sounds like you have outlined the situation well. The only way to know what will happen is to wait and find out. I have my fingers crossed for you!

  19. Hi Connie,
    Thank you for this article it has shed much light on this beautiful plant. I actually was researching for another question and did not yet found the answer. I have accidentally cut back all my leaves from that plant thinking it was a spring flower as I have many early spring flowers in my beds and this one was growing and I thought it had faded out!!! Big mistake! Do you think it will still grow a stalk? I know the bulb plant will suffer and I might not have flowers this year nor next year or very little ones; or maybe not! Maybe this will stock this year’s bulb energy built from last year and emerge next summer into more blooms!!! I am hoping for the best. Do you have any insight on this? Thanks for sharing. Happy gardening!

  20. I live in the UK. I’ve had an amaryllis for 15 years(?) It flowered every year. Tall and impressive. It lives inside and on the windowsill.
    Then last year I had to repot it as it was well and truly potbound. ( the first time I had ever repotted it. I don’t know how it lasted all those years without it)

    I’ve moved to a bigger pot and it has gone craaaazy. If flowered about 4 weeks ago and is now sending up another flower spike to flower again.
    It’s never done that before?

    I must presume it likes it’s new home. 😊

  21. Bought the house with a least 40 bulbs left in the flower bed. After moving into our house last October, there was a freeze which destroyed the long green stem so I cut them down to soil level.
    Now during spring time the leaves are starting to appear OK. Should they bloom OK?
    So my question: After blooming and before the winter freeze comes is it OK to cut the leaves off and leave the bulbs in the flower bed?

  22. Holliann, I’m not familiar with the climate in Kansas. For Western New York, I would tell a gardener to proceed as usual. I don’t think one faded leaf should be a problem. You can get more specific information from the extension service in your state. I hope that helps.

  23. My flower bloomed and died so I cut the stalk and left the leaves one of my leaves is fading should I still continue to leave it and proceed to put In a sunny window and move outside in the summer or should I cut and start the dormant period ? I live in Kansas

  24. I have a bulb from over 10 years ago! I lived in MN and would put it in my basement in the fall, and wouldn’t always water it so it would go dormant. My husband told me he gave it a tiny bit of water and when I wasn’t looking, it would start to bloom before I could put it outside. It blooms every year. Now I’ve moved to AZ and I bought another one and that one is done blooming. The temps now are 40’s to 60’s. Ok if I I repot it with some hyacinth’s and put outside for now? It’ll hit the 100’s this summer, so I’ll have to bring them in, correct?

  25. They have spread like crazy in one pot as well…I would like to divide them now since they are coming up again.. will that kill or damage them? I am in Arkansas zone 7… and I have them in my house…

  26. I have several posts of different kinds and colors. I’ve never taken them out of the pots in 4 years.. They have dead leaves and new leaves coming in around them… can I repot them now if they have green leaves about 12 in. Long ?

  27. My amaryllis is still outside. I’m in zone 6 in Cincinnati. this one is 3 years old & never bloomed until I put it outside & it bloomed in June. Right now, it still has green leaves & has produced a secondary bulb that also has a leaf or 2.
    Can I bring it in & allow its leaves to yellow, or should I leave it outside until it dies back?
    The weather can be a bit capricious here & it could get “frosted” any day now.
    Not sure what to do next. I’d really like it to bloom again, even if not at Christmas.

  28. I have had an array of amaryllis outside all season. In getting them moved for the fall ‘sleeping period’, I noticed red blotches on most of the leaves on mos of the bulbs. If I allow the plant to go dormant, what sort opf treatment should they get?

  29. Linda, I still have my amaryllis outside. You can keep it out awhile longer and wait for the leaves to start turning yellow, or you can bring it in now if you want.

  30. My Amatyllis bloomed twice in 2 years, but now that I want it to go dormant it’s sprouting new leaves! 2 new ones! Do I continue feeding and watering or put it in the cellar?

  31. Hi, I live in Thousand Oaks, CA. No frost here, pretty good weather year round. Do I still have to move my plants into garage in the fall (mid September)?

  32. I am in summer 3 with my bulbs outside here in Alaska. Getting ready to bring the large pot in with two huge bulbs that have babies I will split off in the spring. Watching our temperatures, but still in the 50’s for lows at night, so have not brought in. Then looked closely and have a flower spike about 14 inches now. Was getting ready to stop watering and let go dormant….should I still do that?

  33. I have one I keep outside in the summer. I have never repotted it and I haven’t removed the bulbs and put them in the refrigerator or anything. I live in Texas and don’t have a cool place like a cellar to store them in during dormancy. Any advice?

  34. I got an amaryllis bulb kit for Christmas. I sat in my window seal. It bloomed beautifully. All of the blooms dried up so I threw them away. NOW I have very tall straight green leaves that just keep getting taller. I did see one tiny bulb peeking through with the big one. It was falling over, so I put it in a pot alone. It is growing tall too but there is only one green leaf. I had to stake both pots so the leaves wont fall over should I leave hem alone and not stale? They are heavy and tall. Did I ruin it? Should I leave them outside and continue to water them until they turn yellow, trim down and bring inside in dark place to get ready for blooming? This is the first time trying to grow something. Please help me! I really do not know what to do. Thank you in advance!

  35. I had two lovely blooms around Christmas, but now the leaves are growing and growing and one is about three feet long! The pot is indoors and is watered once a week, but I certainly don’t want the leaves to grow any longer! Can I do anything to curtail them?

  36. I just came across your site after cutting back the leaves and flower stem! This is the first time I have had an amaryllis; Did I kill it? Do you have any recommendations as to how to revive it?

  37. This years Amaryllis had 4 huge flowers. However my bulb from last year (that stayed in the basement all summer) only had 2 foot long leaves when I brought it up and starting watering it just before Thanksgiving but no flowers. This year I’ll try putting it outside for the summer.

  38. Andrea, we who are plant people envy you! Thanks for that tip. I may have to divide my amaryllis, and I’ll do that when it’s time to bring them inside in the fall. You have lucky friends who will get these plants from you. And if you give away some of your collection of amaryllis, that means you have room for other plants!

  39. Yes–this works VERY WELL!!!!! I keep mine outside in the summer in partial shade and feed them when I feed all my other plants–

    15 years ago—-I had ONE bulb—I now have 34!!!! I just keep dividing and repotting—-!!!!
    HOWEVER–do NOT repot close to flowering–I had 2 -3 stems out of some bulbs but last spring repotted—-they did NOT flower!
    I have noticed they have started up again on their own in a unheated room where I keep them–
    HOPEFULLY they will flower this year–so I can give some away for EASTER!!!
    My husband not a plant person keeps asking me WHY I have SO MANY PLANTS (can there ever be too many??!!)
    I guess it is because I don’t kill my plants—-oh well—maybe I can give some away for Easter and whittle down my collection somewhat! I have a beautiful pink variety Apple something—-SO PRETTY!

  40. We follow the same process. This year our 3 bulbs grew buds almost as soon as we brought them inside and each had 2 huge flowerheads.This is the third year they have rebloomed.

  41. My amaryllis are blooming now, too. I was afraid people had already cut back their plants. I’m glad this post was in time for some people.

  42. Mine is just now blooming. 4 blossoms and one more bud forming. I will try your suggestion for rebloom.

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