The long-standing “almost every year” holiday tradition at our house is to give younger family members a huge amaryllis bulb to grow fragrant red blooms indoors in late December.
Even at eight years old, my daughter Lucy could sprout this gorgeous tropical flower on her own.
In later years, the amaryllis bulb holiday gifts followed her to college to brighten the icy Chicago winter. Now that she lives in New Orleans, she can plant the spent bulbs outdoors to bloom the next spring.
Since these bulbs take six to eight weeks to bloom after planting, the gesture has always been a gift for two occasions, with the brilliant red blooms sometimes bursting forth close to Valentine’s Day.
Other families’ traditions never fail to warm me, either. So I was pleased to learn many people plant amaryllis indoors in early winter, so they bloom in time to become part of their holiday decor, either in planters or as cut flowers.
Of course, if you live in balmy USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11, you can also plant these bulbs outdoors in fall or winter. As long as they receive part or full sun, they’ll thrive in flower beds, naturalized areas, or containers in those regions.
You can learn all about planting and caring for amaryllis in our growing guide!
But there’s no need to choose, here. You can force the bulbs to bloom for the holidays, give them as gifts, and still plant a slew of them outdoors if your climate is warm enough.
Whoops, did I say no need to choose? You actually will need to make some selections.
Along with the simple red varieties you will commonly see at the florist’s shop and home stores come November, there are a bounty of amaryllis options!
The different kinds of Hippeastrum fall into five categories: single or double-bloom varieties, those with smaller flowers, the nymphs with their exceptionally large blooms and extra-sturdy stems, and cybister amaryllis with their delicate spidery petals.
They’re not to be confused with Amaryllis belladonna, a different genus in the same family, Amaryllidaceae.
Typically, the common name “amaryllis” refers to the large Hippeastrum bulbs sold in late fall and early winter for glorious indoor blooms.
A. belladonna blooms in August and September, not during the holiday season. They have smaller bulbs, thinner petals that look almost like birds, and are hardy in Zones 5-9.
For holiday gifts and decor, there are numerous gorgeous Hippeatsrum cultivars available, and here are 17 of my favorites:
17 of the Best Amaryllis Varieties
While you’re considering what you might like to plant in containers for your home or garden, also look at these options with an eye toward holiday gifts.
You should bear in mind that with their long, elegant stems, many Hippeastrum varieties need extra support. Others have sturdy stems, and I’ve noted these in the descriptions below.
For those that require support, you can find amaryllis stakes available from HiGift via Amazon.
Without further ado, here are 17 of the best options in the fun and wonderful range of different amaryllis cultivars:
This Dutch cultivar reaches 18 to 20 inches tall and produces two stems, each with four seven-inch white blooms edged with a seafoam green.
A smart choice that shares its name with Athena, the goddess of wisdom, ‘Athene’ bulbs are available in three-packs from Home Depot.
2. Cherry Nymph
Two cheers for the red double blossoms on ‘Cherry Nymph,’ equally celebrated as part of holiday decor and as an antidote for the winter blahs.
The color is so rich the petals appear to shimmer.
This variety produces two stalks that grow 18 inches tall before producing three or four flowers each.
‘Cherry Nymph’ is available from Van Zyverden via Amazon in a kit with a soil block, planter, and one bulb.
You’ll certainly smile when this cheery striped favorite blooms indoors in winter. In 2016, ‘Clown’ was a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.
The broad deep red and creamy white stripes on the petals make this variety perfect for holiday decor.
And did I mention that it’s big, like the shoes worn by its namesake? ‘Clown’ will reach 24 inches tall and produce eight-inch blooms on two or three stems.
Not subtle, but quite charming nonetheless.
‘Clown’ amaryllis is available from Eden Brothers, as part of a “Red and White” set of two or four bulbs that also includes ‘Cherry Nymph.’
4. Double Dragon
I can just picture this sharp red double-bloom variety adding a dramatic accent to Smaug’s mountain lair, or maybe brightening the winter months for Puff on his magic island.
A Dutch-grown bulb, ‘Double Dragon’ produces two stalks with four blossoms each and grows to 24 inches tall. The overall effect is fiery!
‘Double Dragon’ bulbs are available from Van Zyverden via Home Depot.
A cybister cultivar, ‘Evergreen’ looks especially tropical with its apple-green starburst at the center of creamy blossoms.
The color scheme works quite well in winter holiday floral arrangements, especially when paired with a bright red variety.
‘Evergreen’ grows 20 to 24 inches high and produces two stalks with four to six flowers on each.
And even elite gardeners think they’re spiffy. ‘Evergreen’ received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2012, and the RHS will never steer you wrong.
‘Evergreen’ bulbs are available from Burpee.
Dramatic and luxurious like the sports car, but a bit more affordable, ‘Ferrari’ is known for producing a wealth of color.
Unlike the car, this ‘Ferrari’ is from Holland, not Italy.
These bulbs are gargantuan: 13 to 15 inches wide! The flowers are just as lavish, with two stems growing 20 to 26 inches high, and bursting into four or five giant blooms apiece.
The rich red petals surround a deep red center. (Not sure why words like “rich” keep coming up when I talk about this plant…)
Honestly, if I could only choose one, I would go for a field of ‘Ferrari’ flowers instead of the version with four wheels.
And hey, this deep red luxury item, unlike its namesake, can sit right on the dining room table to cheer you up in winter.
Single ‘Ferrari’ bulbs ready for planting are available from Burpee, as well as a potted option that is perfect for gifting.
7. Half and Half
Here’s an amaryllis to gaze at while you sip your coffee and admire your Christmas tree, or your springtime garden.
A new variety from Israel, ‘Half and Half’ grows two feet tall and produces copious blooms of bright red. And each flower boasts a wedge of petals that are blush-tinted cream.
This type typically produces two or three stems, and each yields five or six blooms.
‘Half and Half’ bulbs are available from Van Zyverden via Home Depot.
No myths or kids’ movies here, just extra-large fuchsia blooms on plants that grow 20 inches tall.
‘Hercules’ bulbs produce four or five flowers on each of two stems, and the blooms are usually eight inches wide – a little larger than a salad plate. Or, I don’t know, probably about the size of that Cyclops’ eye…
If this outstanding variety strikes your fancy, ‘Hercules’ bulbs are available from Burpee.
If these double blossoms don’t make you think of Marilyn Monroe’s frothy white skirt being blown ever-higher by a steam vent, you’ve probably never seen the movie “The Seven Year Itch” (or the poster).
Each of the four large, elegant blooms produced on one or two stems are dazzling.
They’ll usually reach 18 to 24 inches in height and provide a fine complement to red amaryllis flowers, as gifts or in holiday decor.
But if you want to grow them outdoors, remember: Some Like It Hot, and so does the ‘Marilyn’ amaryllis.
Double-blossom ‘Marilyn’ is available from Home Depot.
She was the Roman goddess of war, but Minerva was also the goddess of the arts, and that makes this name fitting.
‘Minerva’ blooms are sheer natural beauty, with white stripes that look almost like deft brush strokes emanating from the flat-faced, bright red petals.
Each bulb is usually good for one or two stems that grow 18 to 24 inches high, and reliably produce three or four flowers.
‘Minerva’ amaryllis bulbs are available from Tractor Supply Company as part of a planting kit.
Here’s one for patient indoor gardeners. This cultivar draws its name from the Latin word for “butterfly,” and its rounded, striated petals do resemble those winged beauties.
‘Papilio’ can take a full nine weeks to grow to 24 inches, but being able to see it produce blooms of cream with splashes of magenta and bright green veins is well worth the wait.
How many flowers can you expect? Look for two or three stems with anywhere from two to five eight-inch blooms each.
They’ll offer a soothing reminder that soon enough the live-action swallowtails and monarchs will reappear.
‘Papilio’ is available from Eden Brothers in bags of one, three, or five bulbs.
The flowers on these 20-inch stalks look like an old-school ice skating skirt, or something else that’s graceful and brilliant white.
And they’re an impressive size, able to produce two stems with four or five eight-inch blooms each.
Bulbs are available from Burpee.
13. Purple Rain
These blooms aren’t exactly what I’d call purple – they’re more pink. And I’m pretty sure the famous musician never grew them, either when he was Prince, or when he was the Artist Formerly Known As.
These beauties have eight-inch blooms with striking two-tone pink stripes. And they do have the faintest bit of purple in the center, so maybe that’s where the name came from?
‘Purple Rain’ grows 18 to 24 inches tall and produces two stems with four blooms each.
Still, it kinda makes you wonder what color a Little Red Corvette amaryllis would be, not to mention a Raspberry Beret…
Single ‘Purple Rain’ bulbs are available from Van Zyverden via Tractor Supply Company as part of a planting kit.
14. Pyjama Party
Does it look like those matching pajama sets some families wear on Christmas Eve? With its striped soft red and pink pattern, maybe a little.
But ‘Pyjama Party’ mostly just shares the same whimsy and holiday joy as you’d expect from flannel pj’s.
This Dutch type is tinier than some, growing 15 to 20 inches tall. It produces at least two and sometimes three stems per bulb, with multiple flowers on each.
Single ‘Pyjama Party’ bulbs are sold by Van Zyverden via Tractor Supply Company as part of a growing kit.
Here’s another one of those varieties with a more unusual color, that’s not your typical red, white, or stripes.
‘Rilona’ has dusky apricot petals with deeper orange veins. It’s subtle but still feels tropical, and the blooms are beautiful floating in a glass bowl as a holiday centerpiece.
The mature height is about 20 inches, and each of two stalks is loaded with three or four giant blooms.
‘Rilona’ bulbs are available from Bloomz via Home Depot.
Most varieties are pretty vibrant, but some that belong in our list of top picks are better described as elegant – like ‘Rosalie.’
These large indoor bloomers grow to 20 to 24 inches and produce luminous, apricot-blush flowers with centers of the lightest green.
(It seems almost insulting to the sophistication factor to describe the green central hue as one very reminiscent of an inchworm, but that’s the case…)
Expect four or five huge flowers on each of two stems.
‘Rosalie’ bulbs are available from Burpee.
17. Sweet Nymph
So unusual, so splashy! Like all the nymph types, this one has extra-large flowers – eight inches or wider – and extra sturdy stems that don’t require support.
The color combo is quite eye-pleasing: watermelon-pink petals with darker pink veins and white highlights.
If you can bear to clip them, they’re known as one of the longest-lasting cut flowers for winter-holiday arrangements, and look dashing in glass bowls, or vases that can accommodate the 20- to 24-inch stalks.
‘Sweet Nymph’ bulbs are available from Burpee.
Banish Winter Doldrums With Colorful Amaryllis
The amaryllis offers so many possibilities, from elegant to bold, simple to fancy, plain red to multi-color stripes with centers of another hue.
And what I appreciate about these plants is that they are easy to grow and simple to care for. So if one of the varieties caught your eye, there’s a good chance you can grow it indoors on the first try.
I hope these descriptions have helped you narrow your choices. And if I’ve missed one of your favorites let me know in the comments section below, and feel free to share a picture!
And for more fabulous houseplants to add color to your holiday decor, check out these guides next:
- 35 Favorite Poinsettia Cultivars for Your Home
- How to Grow Christmas Cactus
- How to Propagate Amaryllis Bulbs
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Amazon, Bloomz, Breck’s, Burpee, DeGroot, Eden Brothers, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, and Van Zyverden. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Rose Kennedy
An avid raised bed vegetable gardener and former “Dirt to Fork” columnist for an alt-weekly newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee, Rose Kennedy is dedicated to sharing tips that increase yields and minimize work. But she’s also open to garden magic, like the red-veined sorrel that took up residence in several square yards of what used to be her back lawn. She champions all pollinators, even carpenter bees. Her other enthusiasms include newbie gardeners, open-pollinated sunflowers, 15-foot-tall Italian climbing tomatoes, and the arbor her husband repurposed from a bread vendor’s display arch. More importantly, Rose loves a garden’s ability to make a well-kept manicure virtually impossible and revive the spirits, especially in tough times.