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Why Do We Plant Amaryllis Bulbs with Their Neck Exposed?

20171117A Centre d'information des bulbes à fleurs Netherlands Flowerbulb Information Centre .jpgYou’ve 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?

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When you grow an amaryllis in a pot, leave its neck exposed so its roots have room to grow. Source: www.americanmeadows.com

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 underneath. And indoors, with no predators out to eat any bulb part that is exposed, this unusual way of planting the bulb does no harm.

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.

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Amaryllis planted outdoors in a mild climate. Source: beulahacres.wordpress.com

If you live in a mild climate where you can plant amaryllis bulbs in the outdoor garden (zones 9 to 12), you’ll find they do much better when the bulb is completely buried. Plant it in a rich, well-drained soil, just barely covering the bulb. 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 or 7b, but if so, plant the bulb more deeply, with up to 3 inches (8 cm) of soil covering it, and mulch it heavily in the autumn as well, as you’ll want to keep the bulb frost-free.

Amaryllis: the planting depth depends on root growth and cold protection. Who knew?Amaryllis Stages of Growth

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.

3 comments on “Why Do We Plant Amaryllis Bulbs with Their Neck Exposed?

  1. Pingback: Amaryllis Bulbs | Gardening Partners

  2. Which online stores would you recommend to expand my collection of amaryllises?

    • First, I don’t even know where you live and have readers all over the world. Secondly, amaryllis bulbs are all produced by a limited number of growers, then shipped to nurseries that sell them to you. So, no matter where you buy them, they’ll likely be of the same quality. So… look online for a source in your country with a good variety of bulbs and reasonable prices. I really can’t make recommendations.

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