Gardening

Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Should You Plant an Amaryllis Bulb with its Neck Exposed?

Amaryllis Stages of GrowthYou’e probably always been told that you have to plant an amaryllis (Hippeastrum) leaving the top third of the bulb exposed. Thus many gardeners are convinced that this is absolutely required, that the plant will rot if ever it were to be covered completely. However, wild amaryllis bulbs grow completely underground, like most bulbs. Why the difference?

The idea that the bulb has to be planted with its neck exposed comes from the fact that the amaryllis is largely grown as an indoor bulb. The bulb is so large that, if you did bury it completely when you plant it in a standard pot, there would be no room for the roots. By planting the bulb with the top third of the bulb exposed, you’ll be leaving plenty of room for its roots to develop. And indoors, with no predators to find any bulb that is so exposed, this unusual way of planting the bulb doesn’t harm it. However, if ever you do plant your amaryllis bulb in an extra deep pot while leaving the neck exposed, you’ll discover it will actually pull itself underground over the next year or so, thanks to its contractile roots.

If you live in a mild climate, you’ll find an amaryllis does much better when the bulb is planted completely underground. Plant it in a rich, well-drained soil, just barely covering the bulb (zones 9 to 12). Depending on the cultivar, it may stay at that depth or “dig itself deeper” over time.

Some gardeners even manage to grow amaryllis in zone 8 ou 7b, but if so, plant the bulb more deeply, with up to 3 inches (15 cm) of soil covering it, and mulch it heavily in the autumn as well, as you’ll want to keep the bulb frost-free.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

  1. Olga Bauerová

    I really appreciate your article on potting the Hippeastrum bulbs. I was always wondering why in pots the bulb is outside the substrate and in the natural surroundings is hidden… So, I am going to pot my baby bulbs, this time underground!!!-:) Olga

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