Amaryllis bulbs add a bright splash of color to any space when in bloom. However, for these flowers to thrive, you need to understand the best way to care for them. One crucial step is knowing whether amaryllis bulbs need to be chilled before planting.
Amaryllis bulbs need to be chilled for 6 to 8 weeks to control their flowering cycles. This chilling period, known as vernalization, helps prepare the bulbs for the next growing season and optimizes their growth. The ideal environment for chilling an amaryllis bulb is 40 – 50 °F (4 – 10 °C).
As I write this article, I know I wouldn’t have had this incredible display of bright, colorful amaryllis blooms in my home without chilling the bulbs. I’ll discuss why this is the case and how you can ensure your bulbs get a proper chill before planting them.
Should You Refrigerate Amaryllis Bulbs?
You should refrigerate amaryllis bulbs for 6 to 8 weeks before planting. This step is essential to ensure your amaryllis blooms at the right time and promotes healthy growth. Refrigerating the bulbs at 40 – 50 °F (4 – 10 °C) provides optimal chilling conditions for the bulbs.
Unlike other flower bulbs, amaryllis do not require a dormant period to bloom again. The bulbs will repeatedly bloom if you give them the proper care and attention. To control the blooming pattern, you can put the bulbs in a dark and cool place for 6 – 8 weeks after they bloom. This will help reset the cycle and encourage them to bloom in a more regular pattern.
During the chilling period, amaryllis bulbs are exposed to cooler temperatures and less light, signaling their internal systems to prepare for blooming. The bulbs slowly produce flower buds during the chilling phase that eventually sprout and bloom when the plant is exposed to favorable temperatures.
The chilling process also helps them to produce thicker stems and bigger flowers that are more vibrant and showy. The cooling period is, therefore, necessary for optimal blooming, regardless of what type of soil or potting mix you use for planting.
When To Chill Amaryllis Bulbs
Amaryllis are usually planted in the fall and winter seasons, from October until the end of April. Flowering time is usually 7-10 weeks after planting and starts from late December until the end of June.
To enjoy the blooms during this period, you need to chill the amaryllis bulbs after the leaves have completely faded and the soil has dried out completely. This should be done between August and October if you are aiming for winter blooms and between February and April if you are aiming for spring blooms.
Timing your chill period correctly will ensure that the bulbs are prepared and have enough time to bloom by the time you plant them. You should plan to chill your bulbs in time to get the best results. Once the leaves fully develop, you’ll notice that they start to yellow and eventually die off. This is the perfect time to chill your bulbs for optimum flowering results.
To prepare the bulbs for chilling:
- Cut off the water supply to allow the soil to dry out and the leaves to die off.
- Cut the flower stoke and leaves back to around two inches (5 cm) above the bulb after they have completely faded.
- Carefully dig up the bulbs from the soil, taking care not to damage them. The bulbs are now ready to be chilled.
How To Chill Amaryllis Bulbs
Chilling amaryllis bulbs is a simple process that takes only a few steps. Here’s how you can do it:
- Select the right bulb. Choose a firm, healthy bulb from your desired variety and inspect it for defects. It should be free from discoloration, soft spots, or mold and large enough to produce healthy blooms.
- Clean the bulbs. Clean the bulb with a damp cloth before chilling to remove any visible dirt. Once the bulb is clean, use a dry cloth to remove any residual moisture from the surface. You must ensure the bulb is dry, so it doesn’t spoil during chilling.
- Place the bulb in a plastic bag or container. Put the bulb in a loosely sealed plastic bag or container with wood chips before placing it in the refrigerator. Label the bag with the date on which you started chilling so that you can track the progress.
- Store it in the refrigerator. Place the plastic bag in a dark corner of the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator and set the temperature to 40 – 50 °F (4 – 10 °C). Vegetables or fruits that produce ethylene gasses, such as apples, bananas, tomatoes, and avocados, should be stored away from the bulbs to prevent damage.
- Monitor the chilling period. Take out the bulbs every week or two to see whether they have started flowering. If the bulbs have begun to sprout and bloom, remove them from the refrigerator immediately; otherwise, they can be damaged by cold temperatures.
- Plant the bulbs. After the chilling period, the bulb should be planted and placed in a warm and sunny area. Choose a potting mix that is well-draining and contains organic matter, and water them regularly to promote healthy growth and development of the plant.
How To Plant Amaryllis Bulbs
Planting amaryllis bulbs is an easy process that everyone can do. Here’s how you can plant your amaryllis bulbs:
- Choose the right pot. Pick a pot with more than one drainage hole in the bottom and wide enough to accommodate a large bulb. The pot should have sufficient depth so that the bulbs can be planted up to one-third of their height.
- Prepare the potting mix. Use a well-draining potting mix that contains organic matter such as peat moss or compost. Depending on the size of the pot, mix two to three parts of soil with one part of peat moss and/or compost.
- Place the bulbs in the potting mix. Place the bulb in the center of the pot, pointy side up, with its roots facing downwards. Ensure the bulb is planted deep enough to be buried up to one-third of its height. The other two-thirds of the bulb should be above the soil to allow for good blooming.
- Fill up the pot. Fill the pot with the prepared soil mix, ensuring no air pockets are left in between. The soil should be packed firmly but not too tightly so the bulb can settle in. Leave approximately one inch (2.5 cm) of space from the top of the pot to allow for watering.
- Place the pot in a sunny spot. The sun is essential for the growth of amaryllis bulbs, so place it in an area with bright sunlight. A window sill or a sunny patio is ideal for the plant. The temperature should be warm and consistent, preferably 55 – 65 °F (13 – 18 °C), for the bulb to flower.
- Water the bulbs. Amaryllis bulbs need to be watered regularly but don’t overwater them, or they might rot. Ensure that the soil is moist but not soggy. Maintaining a balance between under and overwatering is essential for the bulbs to thrive.
- Add fertilizer. Use an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer for your amaryllis bulbs and follow the instructions on the packaging for proper application. 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer is excellent for amaryllis bulbs. Feed it twice a month to promote healthier bulb development and blooming.
- Mulch the pot. After planting the bulbs, cover the surface of the soil with a thin layer of mulch to help retain moisture and prevent weeds. As mulch, you can use cocoa hulls, pine needles, or shredded bark.
- Watch the bulb grow and bloom! Once the plant is established, it will bloom in about 6 weeks. Enjoy the beautiful blooms, and watch out for pests or diseases that may affect your plant.
Although amaryllis do not undergo proper dormancy, chilling the bulbs is essential in their cultivation process, which helps control their flowering cycles and ensure they bloom in time. Careful preparation of the bulbs, chilling them in the right temperature conditions, and monitoring progress are critical factors in getting the best results from chilling amaryllis bulbs.
With proper care, your amaryllis will bloom beautifully and fill your home with its glorious flowers in no time.