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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
2013-02-15 16 11 48

Forcing Amaryllis for the Holidays

I'm a big fan of flowering bulbs of all kinds, especially when I'm able to force those bulbs indoors. Forcing is a technique that imitates the environmental conditions that bulbs encounter outdoors, thereby tricking them into flowering earlier. So essentially, you can bring the outdoor beauty of bulbs indoors!

The key is to "imitate the environmental conditions that bulbs encounter outdoors." This means that most flowering bulbs need a cold treatment before they will initiate a flower. This would apply to most of our spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and others. Outdoors, we plant these bulbs in the fall so that they get the cold temperatures of winter and then flower for us the following spring. This can easily be replicated indoors by placing bulbs in the refrigerator or in a cool garage or basement for a period of time.

Luckily though, there are other bulbs that do not need a cold treatment in order to flower. Amaryllis and paperwhites are the most frequent example of these.

I'll focus first on Amaryllis. Bulbs can be bought at many florists and garden centers this time of year. Kits can even be bought that include the bulb, pot, and soil. Everything you need to force your own bulb.


The first step is to plant the bulb in a soilless media in a pot that's about 1-2" larger in diameter than the bulb.

  • The upper half of the bulb should be exposed above the soil.

Within a week, the bulb has already started to shoot up multiple flowers!

  • Water the soil thoroughly at planting, and then allow the soil to become quite dry.
  • Water more frequently after the flower stalk appears, but never water when the soil is already moist.
  • Put the plant in a warm, sunny spot until the flower buds show color, then move it out of direct sunlight.
  • After blooming, the bulb can either be tossed or saved to rebloom next year.
  • To save the bulb, cut off the flowers after blooming to prevent seed formation.
  • Place the remaining foliage in the brightest location indoors as possible until its warm enough to sink into a put outdoors.
  • Once outdoors, gradually move the plant to a brighter location where it has full sun for at least 5-6 hours a day.
  • Bring the plant indoors before the first frost in the fall.
  • Next, give the bulb a resting period but putting the pot in a dark location, withholding all water and allowing the leaves to dry.
  • The bulb may then be forced into bloom again after about 8 weeks of resting period.
These forced bulbs make a great decoration for your own home or can make a great gift for the holdays!

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