Why Does an Amaryllis Bulb Need to Be Above the Soil Line?

by | Dec 29, 2020 | 16 comments

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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16 Comments

  1. Colleen Burton

    Good timing for this article! I received an amaryllis for Christmas and potted it right up to the stem. The next day I read it in or article, dug that guy up and repotted it properly! Thanks, and I’ll let you know how it grows!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Colleen,
      So glad I could help! I know your plant will appreciate being replanted. Lisa

      Reply
      • Brenda Rosenberg

        How long can a bulb be out of ground or non potted? My son dug his up and gave all of them to me.

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Hi Brenda,
          They are kept out of the soil for quite a while by the sellers. It is best to keep them cool so they don’t start growing. If it starts growing, I would get it into soil so it can get its roots established.
          Lisa

          Reply
  2. Lynn Shaw

    I also just received an amaryllis bulb and did not know what to do with it because it didn’t come with any instructions. Thank you for the information in this article!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Lynn,
      I’m so glad I could help! Have a great day!
      Lisa

      Reply
  3. Cheryl

    How often do you water it?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Cheryl,
      I water when I feel its dry down an inch or two. I don’t let it stand in water or dry out completely. Hope that is helpful.
      Lisa

      Reply
  4. Mary

    Is the right time to water in after it blooms how often times should I water my amaryllis? Thank you, mary

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Mary,
      You can water it in after you first plant it and then don’t water it again until it starts growing and the soil dries down. I water it when it dries down a couple inches. Don’t let it completely dry out.
      Lisa

      Reply
  5. Michal L Graham

    I bought my mom an armaryllis bulb. It started to put out all.kind of green leaves which are now almost 12 inches tall but no flower or flower stalk. She’s had it now for a little over 2 weeks. What’s wrong? Is there anything that she may have done wrong? Please help.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Michal,
      I’m sorry this is so late. It may be that it won’t bloom this year as it may have been an immature bulb and needs to grow more before it will flower. Let the leaves grow as long as you can so they can to help the bulb grow and mature. Let me know how it is doing-did it eventually send out a flower stalk?
      Lisa

      Reply
  6. Sharon Coker

    I live in Indiana and received a Amaryllis bulb as a gift. I did all the necessary things I read to prepare it for planting. I planted it but there was only a few days of sun so I decided to put the plant under a grow light and it worked. It’s grown so tall that I pull it away so it doesn’t touch the top of the grow light. Can’t wait for it to bloom.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Sharon,
      I’m so glad your bulb is doing well! They are so beautiful. Enjoy it!
      Lisa

      Reply
  7. Sherry

    I gave my mom a bulb for Christmas but it is sitting on top of rocks. Is that ok?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Sherry,
      I’m not sure what that means. Maybe it is growing hydroponically…? That would be fine, but it may not be able to brought back into bloom next year. If you could send a picture to my email- lisa@thehouseplantguru.com.
      Lisa

      Reply

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