If you’re like most gardeners, you want to get your Amaryllis off to a good start so you can enjoy the blooms as soon as possible. Knowing when to put your Amaryllis in the dark is an essential part of that process.
You should put your Amaryllis in the dark during winter or usually late fall to early spring to allow them to enter dormancy. During dormancy, the amaryllis bulb will rest and build energy for the next flowering cycle, which lasts between 8 and 12 weeks, depending on the variety.
The rest of this article will discuss this topic in more detail, including when to start the dormancy period and how to prepare the amaryllis bulbs for dormancy. I’ll also share some tips on how you can tell if your Amaryllis is ready to bloom again.
When Do Amaryllises Go Dormant?
Amaryllises do not need to enter dormancy at a particular time of year. Instead, they go dormant when their environment tells them to do so. In the wild, this usually occurs in the fall or winter when the days become shorter and temperatures start to drop.
In a domestic setting, you can simulate this environment by putting your Amaryllis in a dark location with temperatures ranging from 40-50 °F (4-10 °C). This process, called “forcing,” mimics the natural photoperiod of Amaryllis in nature and encourages the plant to enter dormancy and prepare for its next flowering cycle.
You should start this process 8-10 weeks before you want to see new blooms, as this will give the bulb enough time to go through dormancy and begin growing again.
Once you’ve placed your Amaryllis in the dark, it should remain there for at least 8-10 weeks, though it sometimes can take up to 12 weeks for the bulb to come out of dormancy and bloom again. During this time, darkness triggers the formation of flower buds and a growth spurt for the bulb. That’s why Amaryllis needs an uninterrupted 16-24 hours of darkness daily.
However, artificial lights, such as street lamps or even the light from your television screen, can interfere with the process. For best results, place your Amaryllis in an area of the house that receives no light at all during the dark period.
How To Prepare Amaryllis Bulbs for Dormancy
Before putting your Amaryllis in the dark, you should prepare it for its dormancy period. The timing of this preparation is essential because it will determine when and how the Amaryllis will bloom.
Reduce the Amaryllis Bulb’s Water Intake
About a month before you place the bulb in darkness, you should slowly reduce its water intake, as this will help ensure it stays hydrated during this time. Otherwise, the bulb could rot and become unusable.
Remember that you need the soil to remain moist but not overly wet. So, once the soil starts to dry out, you can reduce watering frequency and stop altogether for a few weeks before putting the Amaryllis in the dark.
Cut Off Spent Flower Stalks and Foliage
Once all the flowers have died, cut off their stalks at the base of the bulb, leaving about 3 inches (7.62 cm) of the stalks intact. You need the bulb to conserve energy and redirect it toward growing new flower stalks for the next cycle rather than developing seed pods.
The foliage should also remain on the bulb until it starts to wither and turn yellow, as the leaves play an essential role in photosynthesis, which is necessary for the bulb to store energy. Once the foliage begins to die off, the bulb will have absorbed enough energy to sustain it during the dormancy period.
Removing the spent foliage allows the bulb to direct its energy toward creating new buds, which will eventually bloom in the next cycle. To avoid damaging the plant, make sure to use a sharp, clean knife when cutting off the foliage and flower stalks.
Repot the Amaryllis Bulb
Depending on the condition of the potting soil and container, you may need to repot the Amaryllis before putting it in the dark. If the soil becomes compacted or doesn’t drain well, you should replace it with a fresh potting mix.
You may also need to repot if the container is too large for the size of the bulb since amaryllis bulbs need a snug fit in the pot to ensure they get enough moisture and nutrients. Plant the bulb with its neck just above the soil surface to give it enough space to grow.
Place the Amaryllis in a Dark Location
Once you’ve repotted your Amaryllis and it’s ready for dormancy, you can place it in a cool, dark location. Find a spot in your home that receives no natural or artificial light, and leave the bulb there for 8-12 weeks.
If you can’t find a completely dark and cool area of your home, you can chill the amaryllis bulb in your refrigerator for the duration of its dormancy period. This offers a good alternative for those who live in warmer climates and is an easy way to help speed up the dormancy process and jumpstart the flowering cycle.
The ideal temperature range for this process is 40-50 °F (4-10 °C).
If the temperature is too cold, the Amaryllis may not bloom, so don’t place the bulb directly in the refrigerator, as this can cause it to rot. Instead, place the pot in a plastic bag and store it in the crisper drawer, away from fruits and vegetables, such as apples and tomatoes, which can release ethylene gas and damage the bulb.
Here are a few things that you also need to remember:
- Ensure that your amaryllis bulb is kept in a dry, well-ventilated area with plenty of airflow. It could rot and become unusable if there is too much humidity or moisture in the area.
- You should not add water during this time. It will disrupt the dormancy process and could cause the bulb to rot.
- Monitor your Amaryllis for any signs of disease or decay during the dormancy period. If the leaves and flowers have started to rot, remove them from the bulb immediately and place it in a drier area.
How To Know When Your Amaryllis Is Ready To Bloom Again
When the bulb has had enough time in the dark, you will see new flower stalks emerging from the top and sides of the bulb. This will typically take 8-12 weeks, depending on the variety and the temperature of its location.
Once the stalks appear, you can move your Amaryllis to another location, where it should receive bright indirect sunlight and have temperatures between 60-70 °F (16-21 °C). This will encourage your plant to start flowering and growing healthy foliage again. A bright windowsill or a shady spot outdoors are both excellent options.
The next sign that your Amaryllis is ready to bloom again is when you see the flower heads generally emerging a few weeks later.
It will usually take the Amaryllis about 4-6 weeks to develop flower buds and start to bloom. The bright, beautiful flowers will then bloom for several weeks until the foliage begins to yellow, though it will also depend on the variety and the care it receives.
Bigger, more established bulbs will produce more flowers than smaller, newly planted bulbs, and providing the right conditions is key to ensuring your Amaryllis blossoms for as long as possible.
Once the leaves have yellowed, cut them off and allow the Amaryllis to enter its dormant period again. You can then begin another cycle by placing it in a dark location and allowing it to rest.
The Amaryllis is a beautiful flower that you can enjoy all year round when kept in the right conditions.
Knowing when to put Amaryllis in the dark, when to bring it out of dormancy, and what to do when it’s ready to bloom again are essential if you want to ensure healthy growth and regular blooms for many years to come.