The size of the bulb makes a difference and some of them don't need any water to bloom.

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It's impossible to walk past an amaryllis in full bloom without admiring it. Those huge flowers in bright, cheery colors are truly dazzling. Plus, this plant blooms for several weeks in the winter, usually just in time for the holidays. Amaryllis bulbs don't need much of your attention during the busy winter season either: All you have to do is give your plant a warm, brightly lit spot and a weekly watering. Then, those plain-looking bulbs will soon become beautiful showstoppers. But there's much more to these captivating flowers than you may realize. Here are a few surprising facts about amaryllis that might just make you love growing these festive plants even more.

A closeup of a red Amaryllis flower
Credit: REDA&CO/Getty Images

1. The Name Amaryllis Has Greek Roots

The story goes that amaryllis flowers sprung up from the blood of the nymph Amaryllis, who was madly in love with the handsome shepherd Alteo. That beautiful flower helped her win his heart. Perhaps that's why amaryllis today represents beauty and love, as well as determination, strength, and success. You might also see amaryllis referred to as Hippeastrum, which is the genus name for these plants and comes from the ancient Greek words for knight's star.

2. Waxed Bulbs Don't Need Water to Grow

It doesn't get more low-maintenance than a plant that doesn't need to be watered at all. Waxed amaryllis bulbs don't need soil either because the wax holds in all the moisture and nutrients they need to bloom. Just plunk them down in a warm, brightly lit spot and they will do their thing. You can even hang them upside down for a fun way to display them.

Although there are not as many colors available as regular amaryllis bulbs, the waxed versions still will produce gorgeous flowers you can enjoy through the holidays and sometimes the wax is decorative, too. They also would make a unique gift for that impossible-to-shop-for person on your list.

Amaryllis with Greenery
Credit: Michael Partenio

3. There Are More Colors Than Just Red and White

Some of the most common varieties you'll see have bright red flowers such as 'Red Lion' ($13, Etsy) or red-and-white blooms such as 'Samba' ($20, Breck's). But among the hundreds of amaryllis varieties that exist, you can find plants that bloom in shades of pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, and multi-colors. Some are double-flowered, meaning they have more petals than usual so they look extra full. Some amaryllis flowers have frilly petals or skinny petals, too.

4. The Size of the Bulb Matters

As bulbs go, amaryllis are quite hefty. Some can get as large as softballs, but you may also see smaller ones closer to the size of a tennis ball. And no wonder they're so big. These bulbs usually produce two flower stalks and each can have between 2-5 individual blooms. When selecting bulbs, always try to get the largest ones you can find because they'll produce the most flowers for you. And if you've ever wondered why these bulbs are on the pricey side (anywhere between $12 to $40 each), consider that it takes 3-5 years for them to grow large enough to market. Plus, most of them are shipped to the U.S. from Holland or South America.

5. Amaryllis Can Rebloom Every Year

It might seem like a one-and-done plant after the flowers fade, but you can keep these bulbs going year after year with a little TLC. Once your bulb has finished blooming, cut the flower stalks down to about one inch above the bulb. Treat it like a houseplant, keeping it watered and letting it get sunlight during the spring and summer. Around mid-August, stop watering to let the plant go dormant. Once the leaves had dried up, cut them off and store the bulb in a cool, dark place for eight weeks. About 6-8 weeks before you want to see beautiful blooms again, move your bulb into a warm, bright spot and start watering again. In a couple of weeks, you should see some new growth happening. Once the flower stalks appear, add a stake to keep them from falling over.

These beautiful bulbs help make the holidays merry and bright with their huge, colorful flowers. Try growing an amaryllis or two alongside classic poinsettias (or even cute red succulents) for an extra festive display.

    Comments (3)

    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    January 16, 2020
    Hi bev_strother_francis. According to the ASPCA, they are toxic to pets. BHG
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    January 9, 2020
    Many people do not realize i f you purchase waxed Amaryllis they will nott re-read bloom and must be thrown away!
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    January 9, 2020
    Are they "pet safe?" I have an indoor cat. Recently, I lost an older cat to extreme distress from a plant I brought inside during the winter.