Amaryllis Forcing Indoors: How To Force Amaryllis Bulbs In Soil

Amaryllis Forcing Indoors: How To Force Amaryllis Bulbs In Soil

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Patience is a virtue it is said. That is one virtue some of us lack when it comes to growing amaryllis flowers. Fortunately, we can trick the bulbs into thinking it is time to flower. There are some schools of thought that say forcing amaryllis bulbs in soil versus water is the best method. Here are some tips on how to force amaryllis bulbs in soil for a successful project that will brighten your home and your mood.

How to Force Amaryllis Bulbs in Soil

Purchased forced bulbs allow you to enjoy flowers earlier than they are produced in nature. This jump start on spring can brighten the dark spaces in the winter home. Amaryllis forcing indoors is easy and allows you to watch the tall stems grow right before your eyes. Take a do-it-yourself approach and try amaryllis bulb forcing. Kits are available readily or you can force the previous season’s bulb, provided you kept it in a dry location.

The first step is to make sure you have healthy bulbs. Choose large bulbs without blemish or mold. If you stored them from the previous year and they got moist, rot may have set in and these should be discarded. Forcing amaryllis bulbs in soil is best since it minimizes the chances of any rot forming on the bulb. Some people force amaryllis in water, but if your home is humid or the bulb is too low in the water, fungal damage can occur.

The next step is choosing the proper container. The bulbs don’t need a large pot in spite of their massive blooms and tall stems. Pick one that drains well and is about 1 or 2 inches (2.5 or 5 cm.) wider than the diameter of the bulb. Planting the bulb at the proper depth comes next.

Fill the bottom of the pot with a couple of inches (5 cm.) of soil. Situate the bulb about midway in the container and fill up to the top with soil. The tp third of the bulb should be sticking out of the soil when you are finished. Push in a bamboo or other type stake just to the side of the bulb. This will help support those leggy leaves and stem when the growth becomes tall.

Water the soil well, ensuring excess moisture is draining from the bottom. A key to amaryllis forcing indoors is temperature. Best, most rapid growth will occur if the container is in a room that is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C.).

Do not water the container again until you see green growth. Provide bright indirect light and evenly moist (not soggy) soil once the leaves have begun to appear.

Amaryllis Bulb Forcing Care

It might seem that faster growth would occur with a little plant food, but hold your horses. Wait until you see green. It can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks for growth to appear. You can try to stimulate the bulb by placing it on a warming mat. Then fertilize with a diluted (by half) water soluble food every 2 to 3 weeks.

Rotate the pot every few days as growth continues to keep the stalk straight. Depending upon the variety of amaryllis, blooming should take place 6 to 8 weeks after potting. Once the flowers appear, move the plant to a location with indirect light to prolong the blooms.

Amaryllis bulb forcing in soil is one of those no brainers once you have a few tricks up your sleeve. In no time you will be face to face with one of the most brilliant flowers available.

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Read more about Amaryllis Hippeastrum

Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Factsheet | HGIC 1556 | Updated: Jan 20, 2016 | Print

Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus tazetta synonym N. papyraceus) are one of the more popular bulbs to force.
Photo by Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

Making a plant flower at a predetermined time or under artificially imposed conditions is called forcing. Hardy bulbs are particularly suited for forcing indoors and offer a succession of color throughout the winter and spring months.

The easiest and most common hardy bulbs for forcing are crocuses (Crocus species), daffodils (Narcissus species), hyacinths (Hyacinthus species), and tulips (Tulipa species). Others that can easily be forced include Dutch iris (I. x hollandica), snowdrop (Galanthus species), and grape hyacinth (Muscari species

Forcing hardy bulbs involves four stages: (1) selecting appropriate bulbs (2) planting (3) cooling and (4) forcing into flower.

For the best results, purchase only bulbs that are recommended for forcing. Handle the bulbs with care at all times. They are living plants and should not be dropped or subjected to extremely low or high temperatures. If you cannot plant your bulbs immediately, store them in a cool place (35 to 55 °F). Bare bulbs can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator prior to potting. Store them in a mesh bag or a paper bag with holes to permit ventilation. Vegetable or crisper drawers can be used, but avoid storing bulbs in the same drawer as ripening fruit or vegetables which give off ethylene gas which may harm the bulbs. Also, some bulbs are poisonous, so this storage method is not recommended for households with young children.

Bulbs That Don't Need Chilling

Bulbs that are native to warm climates don't require a cooling period to trigger blooms. Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus both belong in this category.

Here's one way to enjoy bulbs that require chilling — without having to do it yourself: Our Mother's Day bulb basket, part of our Blooming Gift Subscription, contains pre-chilled daffodils, tulips, and more.

Amaryllis bulbs are best planted in a pot filled with soil, with about a third of the bulb above the soil line. Place in bright, indirect light and water sparingly until growth begins in earnest. Amaryllis are available in many interesting colors and forms: There are bright reds, as well as white, pink, peach, and even green!

Paperwhite bulbs can either be planted or just placed in a shallow bowl use pebbles to hold the bulbs in place. Add water, and they'll usually bloom just four weeks after "planting." To help keep stems short and sturdy, start them out with indirect light and temperatures of about 50 degrees F. for the first two weeks, then warmer, brighter conditions after that. If you're growing your bulbs in a bowl with pebbles or marbles, the water should cover no more than the bottom quarter to third of the bulb.

Paperwhites offer delicate beauty and an intense fragrance. Buy a few dozen bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place. Start some every few weeks for blooms right through February.

Colorful and fragrant hyacinths are a good choice for forcing into early bloom.

Caring for Forced Bulbs

When the bloom period has ended, plant bulbs outside or in a pot. Don’t cut the dead leaves or flowers off until they turn yellow and dry out. The purpose of leaving the leaves until they are dry is to feed as much of the nutrients in the leaves back into the bulb. If they are cut off, the bulbs won’t have as much food and may not produce as many, or any blooms the next year.

Remember, when forcing bulbs, they should only be planted twice the depth of the bulb. Dig a hole the size of the bulb, add some aged compost and a bit of bone meal (high phosphorus for root production), and water well. Place the bulb in the hole, cover and tamp lightly, watering again.

Also, when forcing bulbs remember that they may or may not produce more blooms the same year. Easter lilies will bloom in the spring, and then often in July again before going to sleep for the rest of the year. In the fall, feed them a high phosphorus fertilizer, like a 15-30-15 and water well again.

Sometimes when bulbs are removed from the pot or ground they’ll have little bulbs or bulblets on the sides or bottom. These are new plants forming. Pull these off and plant them as well. In some bulbs, they may not be as obvious. One example is Asiatic lilies. They produce “scales” or sheets of bulbs. Peel these off and plant them. Yay for more plants!

Forcing Branches and Other Plants

For some faster color, you can force other things like cherry or forsythia branches. Simply cut a branch of a spring blooming shrub or tree, about 10 inches is good. Strip off any leaf or flower buds on the bottom and place in water. In a week or two, you’ll have leaves and flowers to enjoy for a while. If you get lucky and they root in the water (willows are great for this) then you can plant them.

One thing to note is that it doesn’t work for everything at all times. If the trees or shrubs are still dormant, they are not ready and won’t work. You’ll end up with sticks. If you don’t see anything in a few days, then start over.

Have you ever tried forcing bulbs in the spring? What are your favorites to force?

Forcing Amaryllis

It isn’t necessary to be a botanist to choose a good amaryllis bulb. A little botanical knowledge about amaryllis, however, ensures gardeners buy productive bulbs for a beautiful floral display. Amaryllis (botanically Hippeastrum) bulbs are easily coaxed into bloom indoors. Their easy-going nature and dramatic appearance make them a favorite living holiday decoration.

Each bulb produces one or two flower stalks, and each stalk produces two to five flowers that open in quick succession. The trumpet-shaped, lily-like flowers measure up to 6 inches long and 5 inches wide.

‘Red Lion’ amaryllis with two flower stalks emerging on both sides of the leaves.
Anthony Keinath,©2018, Clemson Extension

‘Red Lion’ is a common cultivar producing scarlet-colored flowers when planted indoors and carmine red-colored flowers when planted outdoors. ‘Apple Blossom’ is a white and salmon-pink cultivar. Visit a local garden center to find amaryllis in other colors.

Be aware not every amaryllis bulb blooms. It is critical to purchase bulbs with a visible flower bud to ensure that the bulb flowers.

On a vigorous bulb, the flower buds emerge before the leaves. If only leaves are coming out of the center of the bulb, don’t expect flower buds to follow. The buds emerge off center on the top of the bulb, one on each side of the neck. Flower buds are triangular, thicker than leaf buds, and have a faint line down the middle.

If your bulb is in a kit with growing medium, follow the directions in the kit. However, replace the plastic pot in kits with a ceramic pot. The heavier pot counterbalances the weight of the flowering bulb to prevent it from tipping over. Flower stalks may need staking.

Amaryllis are easy to maintain. Keep plants in bright indirect sunlight until blooming starts. Allow the top of the potting mix to dry before watering. Once in bloom, place the plant in moderate light to keep the flowers fresh. The potting mix should be moist but not wet. After the blooms fade, return the plant to bright indirect sunlight.

After the danger of frost is past, plant amaryllis bulbs outdoors in a spot that gets part to full sun. Expect them to bloom each year in mid-spring. When planting, place the top of the short neck just above the ground. Spread the thick white roots out in a fan at the bottom of the planting hole. Amaryllis tolerate a range of soil moisture conditions however, amend sandy soils with compost before planting to help retain soil moisture.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.


Anthony P. Keinath, PhD, Vegetable Pathologist, Clemson University Coastal REC, Clemson University

Amaryllis Bulbs are easy to grow indoors

If you like to grow flowering houseplants that give you spectacular blooms in the dead of winter, forcing amaryllis bulbs is a great way to bring the outdoors into your home.

Amaryllis is considered a true member of the flower bulbs family, as compared to other corms, rhizomes and tubers. Here is a group of pictures showing the plant as it grew. There were some days it seemed to grow about 8 inches in one day! It took from February 6 to March 17 for the full effect.

Growing it was so easy. All I did was plop it into a pot (this one didn’t even have drainage holes on the bottom!) I left the very top of the bulb just slightly exposed and added potting soil. Even moisture until it started flowering, and then I kept it fairly moist. It was sitting in a south facing window.

This is a perfect project to do with children. Kids are quite impatient and have a hard time waiting for their plants to grow. Not so with this bulbs. There are days that it grows a few inches a day!

March 14March 17th in all its glory!

For more flower pictures, please Visit my Gardening Cook Flower board on Pinterest

An up date on this post. After the blooms finished flowering, I took the whole thing out of the pot and planted them in my zone 7 b test garden. I had no real hopes that the thing would bloom outdoors after our cold and snowy winter last year.

When I was tending the garden this spring, I found a plant that needed moving. I thought it was a gladiolus at first. To my delight, after three big snow storms, I discovered that it had survived the winter. Amaryllis are tropical and normally only grow in zones 9-11. What a treat!

The colors are a bit less vibrant because it is in the sun but still a glorious plant. Hopefully, it will continue to survive the winters here and multiply. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

If you would like to try your hand at forcing this wonderful bulb, Amazon has amaryllis for sale

Watch the video: How to Force Bulbs