Did you receive an amaryllis bulb for the holidays? Are you wondering what to do with it? I know that it is best to plant the bulb with 1/3 of it protruding out of the potting medium. But the question is why? I had never thought about it too much before, but a couple of nights ago, I woke up and started thinking about it. Do you wake up and think about houseplants? I do. Anyway, let’s talk about amaryllis care and why we need to plant the bulb sticking out of the potting medium.

amaryllis bulbs

Different size amaryllis bulbs

Buying a bulb

First, let’s buy a bulb. You can find bulbs from $5 to $50 and maybe more if you buy them with a decorative pot. The bigger the bulb, the more money, but you will also (usually) get more flowers. So, buy the biggest bulb your budget will allow. The picture above shows the difference between a $5 bulb in a 4″ pot and an $18 bulb in a 6″ pot. The pot should only be less than 1″ bigger than the diameter of the bulb, as the bulb likes to be snug in the pot.  The small less expensive bulb has one flower stalk and it will probably be the only one that it will have. (Next year it will be larger and may send out more flowers.) The larger bulb may send up 2-3 flower stalks. I’ll keep you updated.

amaryllis bulb

Amaryllis bulb from the top

Planting the bulb

So now we come to the planting of the bulb. Many people may assume the bulb needs to be buried like a tulip or daffodil. Well, obviously, we can’t plant amaryllis bulbs like those bulbs or we would have to have a pot a foot deep or more. Luckily, the amaryllis needs to be planted with its “shoulders” sticking out of the potting medium. In fact, 1/3 of the bulb would like to be sticking out. The question I’m asking is why? I did some research.

Amaryllis bulb

Two flower stalks with leaves in the middle

Why?

I’ve always assumed that the reason was the bulb would rot if planted too deep. If the water were to get down into the crown of the bulb, it could definitely rot the bulb. Of course, I asked and you probably did, too—it does rain in South America where they are from, so probably rain gets into the crown of the bulb, right? Maybe it grows on a slant or under the canopy of trees where the rain doesn’t make its way into the crown. Remember, outside there is heat and wind which would also help that water evaporate faster. So let’s put that out of our minds. Growing plants as houseplants is always different than how they grow in their natural habitats. If we can give them conditions as close to that as possible, they will grow better, but I digress. Back to why they need to be planted high,

Because…

There is something that seems to affect amaryllis bulbs called red splotch disease or Peyronellaea curtisii (formerly Stagonospora curtisii –Wow! It’s not just plant names that change….) Here are some pictures of what it looks like. It is a fungus and we all know damp and warm conditions are what fungus prefer. This fungus can survive in the neck of the bulb and on infested foliage. When the leaves and flower stalks push up through the bulb scales (if you look closely two pictures above,  you can see the flower bud peeking through the bud scales.) they could become injured or scraped. In the picture above, the flower stalks are already out and the leaves are up about 2″ tall. As they grow, if they are injured that will invite the spores of the fungus to enter the plant and begin to grow. So keeping the neck dry is helpful in keeping that fungus at bay. It can be treated with a fungicide, but If it gets too bad, the plant is better discarded.

'Minerva' amaryllis

“Minerva’ amaryllis flower

Now we know

So now we know why we need to plant them high. To keep that neck dry and keep fungus and rot from affecting our plants. Good to know.

Read here for after bloom care of your amaryllis.

Have a great week, my plant friends!

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