Garden Photo of the Day

Amarylis: A December Houseplant

Enjoying a classic houseplant in a new way

Today Cynthia Strickland, who gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina, is sharing an interesting twist on the familiar amaryllis. (Cynthia has contributed to the GPOD before; check it out here and here.)

In the past weeks I enjoyed watching a “waxed” amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrid, Zones 7 or 9 through 10 depending on the variety, or grown as a houseplant), a flowering bulb encased in wax, grow and bloom indoors. The flowers lasted at least as long as a cut flower arrangement. It did not need to be planted in soil or watered, and it was easy to move around. The amaryllis only needed bright light, and there was no soil or water to spill.

The roots had been removed, so the bottom of the bulb was flat and free-standing. In some photos you can see how most of the energy goes into flower production and how the length of the leaves are very short. The bulb, which is bigger than a baseball, took about four weeks to produce visible flower buds from under the sepals. In this (unknown) variety, there were two flower stems with four flowers on each stem.

It was interesting to watch the plant parts grow and change, as well as to see how different the red of the petals looked in various lighting situations. The buds grouped together look similar to tulips and really pop next to an ‘Electric Lime’ coleus (Solenostemon ‘Electric Lime’, annual). Outdoors in bright sunlight, the red-orange color is stark and intense paired with a ‘Blue Pacific’ juniper (Juniperus conferta ‘Blue Pacific’, Zones 6–9).

I live in Zone 7a, where I have seen amaryllis growing outdoors. Although the chances are slim that the spent, rootless bulb will continue living, I removed the wax and other covering, sprinkled some rooting hormone on the bottom of the bulb, and placed it in a pot with some soil as an experiment to see if it would grow.

Happy gardening!

amarylis in bloomThe amaryllis in full bloom.

amarylis in bloomThe wax-covered bulb, with the flower buds just beginning to emerge.

amarylis in bloomThe stems beginning to stretch taller.

amarylis in bloomThe buds ready to pop open.

amarylis in bloomIn full bloom. The leaves of the waxed bulb stay short, but the flowers open as normal.

amarylis in bloomDetail of the anthers—the male parts of the flower—beginning to shed their pollen.

amarylis with 'Blue Pacific' juniperThe amaryllis paired with a ‘Blue Pacific’ juniper.

cut stem to encourage amarylis to rebloomThe flowers have finished, the flower stems have been cut off, and the wax has been peeled away to try and encourage the bulb to grow roots. Has anyone tried to grow a waxed amaryllis after flowering? Any success?


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View Comments


  1. alicefleurkens 12/28/2020

    Thats very cool. Never seen one grow like that before. And the flowers are beautiful.

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 12/28/2020

      Hi, Alice. Thank you for your thoughtful comments! The flowers grew quickly and it was a pleasure to watch their transformation.

  2. user-7517271 12/28/2020

    I have been growing Amaryllis for several years. This year I gave friends ( who are plant challenged) the waxed Amaryllis bulbs as part of a Christmas gift. They all loved them. But I don't think they will reflower.

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 12/28/2020

      Thank you for sharing your experience with Amaryllis!
      What varieties have you enjoyed?

  3. user-6824606 12/28/2020

    Surprisingly the bulbs are resilient and when the wax is removed and potted up continue on normally. Keep it fertilized to put some energy back into the bulb. They might miss a year of bloom but as bulbs can live up to 60 years it's worth keeping them going.

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 12/28/2020

      Re: bulbs can live up to 60 years

      I did not know that!

      And I appreciate your other tips as well.

  4. coastalgardener 12/28/2020

    Wow, that was fascinating! I was given a regular amaryllis bulb in a container this Christmas, and it's just now beginning to sprout. I've never grown one before, but I'm hoping I can keep it blooming over the years. They really are beautiful!

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 12/28/2020

      Hi, CostalGardener - I hope you'll be happy with your amaryllis!

  5. Sunshine111 12/28/2020

    Beautiful! Laura from Garden Answer (on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram) did a video about these waxed amaryllis bulbs last year. She potted them all up after removing the wax to keep them growing. I agree it will probably take a year or two for them to be fertilized regularly and build up enough strength before flowering again, but I do believe it is possible.

  6. Sunshine111 12/28/2020

    Also, you can prolong the bloom life of the flowers, as well as enhancing the restoration process of the bulb by cutting the flowers stalks and putting them in a vase.

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 12/28/2020

      Dvngardener - thank you for sharing several sources regarding Amaryllis. I will save those.

  7. bsavage 12/28/2020

    Love it! I just got one from my sister for Christmas, and it is just starting it's journey. Love amaryllis!

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 12/29/2020


  8. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 12/29/2020

    I've never seen a waxed bulb. Strange.
    Leaving the leaves on until they've completely died back would surely increase the odds that the bulb has enough energy to least that's how regular bulbs are handled.
    good luck with the experiement

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 12/29/2020

      Hello - as user-7517271 suggested, a waxed bulb that doesn't need much care and can be discarded after blooming is a way to market and sell amaryllis to people would would not normally buy amaryllis. And because it says on the label to discard after blooming, you essentially have permission to throw away or compost a plant that is not going to be spectacular again for a year or two.
      I actually fit into that category of never bought amaryllis and I did not want to care for the bulb indefinitely.
      However, I do have the curiosity and space (at the moment) to try the experiment!

      I know you have a lot of horticultural experience, so appreciate your comments!

  9. Musette1 12/29/2020

    Several of my amaryllis are 5+ years old and seem to want to carry on, even with my benign neglect (I put them outside in the Summer, where they frequently rebloom, and try to remember to put them in a dark cupboard to go dormant before it gets too cold (the cupboard is in the unheated 5b garage). I have never grown a waxed one so will eagerly await your results!

    1. Musette1 12/29/2020

      btw - I've started growing Cybister and other evergreen amaryllis that do not require forcing for repeated bloom - my 'La Paz' cybister just finished its first flowering - we'll see how it continues to do as a houseplant. A horticultural friend has a 20yr old 'Papilio' (evergreen) that has increased tenfold!!! For scatterbrained me, the evergreen varieties might be the wave (or petal) of the future!

  10. User avater
    cynthia2020 12/29/2020

    Musettel - I read through your comments and looked at photos and descriptions of La Paz and Papilio. Thank you!
    And I appreciate your sense of humor! :- )

  11. User avater
    simplesue 01/01/2021

    Oh I somehow missed this in my email box...
    So much good info here and gorgeous photos!

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