Amaryllis is native to Peru and South Africa. The genus Amaryllis comes from the Greek means “to sparkle.” Bulbs were brought to Europe in the 1700s, and the old heirloom varieties have been known to bloom for up to 75 years. 

While the most popular colors are red and white, flowers may also be pink, salmon, apricot, rose, or deep burgundy. Some varieties are bicolor such as purple and green, or even having petals with a different edge color.

Forcing an amaryllis bulb is an easy winter project that will bring on simple joy and colorful decorations during the darkest part of the year. A bulb or already started plant can be purchased from a local nursery or a hardware store.  It usually takes six to eight weeks for amaryllis to bloom.

Planting Amaryllis

Amaryllis grow best in narrow containers. Containers may be made of plastic, metal, ceramic, or terracotta. Bulbs should be firm and dry with no signs of mold, decay, or injury. Select a container that has one or more holes in the bottom and drains easily. The diameter of the pot should be about 1 inch wider than the widest part of the bulb and twice as tall as the bulb to allow space for good root development. Fill the pot about half full with soil. Pack the soil gently around the bulb, so approximately one-third of the bulb remains above the soil line. Water about once a week.

Paperwhite narcissus

Paperwhite narcissus is native to the Mediterranean region. They will grow happily and bloom with nothing more than water and stones or pebbles. I have been planning mine in a glass aquarium-like dish for many years. (New bulbs need to be purchased each year as they are forced, but they are very inexpensive). The bulbs begin to grow as soon as they are planted, with flowers appearing in 3–4 weeks. Paperwhites produce clusters of fragrant blooms. The strong fragrance may bother those with sensitivities to fragrances. 

Planting Paperwhites

Set the bulbs in a pebble or gravel mixture, pointed end up in an enclosed container. (Glass containers work the best as one can observe the growing process and the small bulb get enough light). Space the bulbs very closely; they should almost touch. Fill with the water only up to the bottom of the bulb, so the roots will have access to the water, but the bulb will not rot. Make sure the container is located by a sunny window. Water a couple of times per week for the roots to remain submerged in the water.

Amaryllis are always an eye catching holiday table decoration

You can pant several amaryllis bulbs in a larger container so they will bloom in stages or in different colors so you can enjoy them from Thanksgiving till February.

All of these bulb winter varieties are forced grows, so they are unlikely to rebloom again. If you want ongoing winter blooms year after year, get a Christmas cactus. Forget about them for the whole summer. Yes, they do best when unwatered and neglected in a poorly lit place. In late summer, place them in a well-lit window and start watering them regularly. The blooms stay on for several weeks.     

Christmas cactus keeps blooming year after year. The plant will grow larger each year, divide and repot it as necessary.


Bulbs in the Basement, Geraniums on the Windowsill: How to Grow and Overwinter 165 Tender Plants by Alice and Brian McGowan.

Format: Print book and Hoopla ebook

Container and Fragrant Gardens: How to Enliven Spaces with Containers and Make the Most of Scented Plants by Peter Loewer; and contributors.

Format:  Print book

Please contact me for any questions or resources.

Magda Born

Community Services Librarian

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

625 Minnesota Ave.

Kansas City, KS 66101

913-295-8250 ext 1103