Gardening: Turn to amaryllis for a jolt of color in winter

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

If you’re looking for flowers to brighten your life after the holiday decor has been stashed away and you find  poinsettias passé, consider growing amaryllis. These showy tropical bulbs will light up any room and are a snap to grow. The lily-like flowers are available in shades of red, pink and white, solids and gorgeous splashy and stripped patterns. Newer varieties sport bodacious multiple petaled flowers that can take your breath away.

To view one of the largest collections available, check out the White Flower Farm  catalog website ( ) and be prepared to drool.  

When buying amaryllis bulbs, size matters. A baseball-sized bulb will usually produce two stems, each yielding four or more flowers. If cared for properly it may even re-bloom. A small bulb, on the other hand, will produce a single stem sporting two rather small flowers.  In the $5 range, you’ll often find these small sized bulbs boxed up with a small pot and some soil in drug stores and big boxes. Prices vary, depending on the bulb size, variety and containers. White Flower Farm offers many top-quality bare root bulbs priced in the $20 range as well as more expensive  container combos. 

When buying amaryllis bulbs, size matters.

The good news is these easy-to-grow bulbs need only bright sunlight, light watering and patience.  When planted in soil these bulbs take 8 to 10 weeks to bloom. For those who don’t want to mess with soil, they can also be forced in water, much like the popular hyacinth bulbs. If you’re in a hurry, many florists have these beauties available in bloom.

Amaryllis also make great cut flowers. When cut just as the flower bud begins to show color and placed in a vase of tepid water with floral food added, they will quickly burst in to a bloom that will last up to three weeks. The secret to success here is to change out the water every couple of days and add  more floral food. Packets of floral food are available at craft stores in the flower arranging department.  

Soil-grown bulbs can be used as an indoor plant that will flower from year to year. I have a gardening friend who has had one survive for 30 years.

The White Flower Farm website has excellent growing guides on line that take the mystery out of all these uses of amaryllis and the printed growing guides are also included in every shipment.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.