The stunningly unique blooms of amaryllis can add dramatic color to your home and garden.
Native to South America, tropical Hippeastrum can be grown outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11, and indoors in colder areas.
These striking flowers are often forced to bloom in the winter, adding some sparkle to holiday decor.
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Healthy, mature bulbs produce secondary “offset” bulbs which can be removed and repotted, providing you with new plants, and you can also propagate amaryllis by bulb sectioning, aka cuttage.
Ready to get started? Here’s what I’ll cover:
Though it is possible to grow amaryllis from seed, the process from seed to flower is slow, taking from three to five years.
If you have seeds, time, and want to learn more about how to do this, check out our guide here.
But if you don’t have that kind of patience, there are other options. Instead, you can easily propagate amaryllis by dividing offsets from mature parent bulbs and by sectioning.
While these methods are certainly quicker than starting from seed, new plants can still take a season or two to flower.
Another benefit of propagating from offsets or by division is that they will produce a clone of the parent plant.
When to Divide
The time to divide your plants all depends on the bloom cycle, which can vary based on Zone and your growing preferences.
When plants are grown outdoors, they naturally bloom in the spring, after a period of winter dormancy.
Some gardeners grow amaryllis indoors and many of us choose to force the plants to flower during the winter holidays.
Learn more about this forcing technique in our guide.
As a general rule, you will aim to divide after flowering, when the foliage has died back naturally and the plants are dormant.
It’s important not to cut off the leaves when the plant has finished flowering, as it needs the foliage to continue to create and store energy.
The ideal time to divide is towards the end of the dormancy period, just as you see new leaves start to appear.
Bulb sectioning can be done at any time after the foliage has died back and before the bulb breaks dormancy.
If you are growing plants outdoors in a warm location, the time to divide will typically be in late winter to early spring. For plants grown indoors, you can divide in early to late fall.
Mature amaryllis bulbs often produce smaller side bulbs, called an offset or bulblet, which can be found situated just next to the “mother” bulb.
These offsets can be carefully detached from the main bulb, to create new flowers.
To divide offsets, lift the entire plant from the ground or the container it’s growing in, being careful not to damage the bulb or roots.
If you are growing outdoors, you can use a garden fork or spade to carefully loosen soil around the base of the plant.
Gently remove the soil from around the bulb and roots.
Next, locate bulblets that are at least one third of the size of the mother bulb and separate them by pulling them downwards or twisting carefully.
You can also use a sharp knife, scissors, or a screwdriver to gently pry them off. Each offset should have a few roots, and be careful to keep these intact.
Leave any smaller offsets attached to the main bulb so they can continue to grow.
Replant offsets immediately in pots at least two inches larger than the diameter of the bulblets.
Repot in potting soil leaving the top third of the offset visible above the soil line. Use a well balanced potting mix containing plenty of organic matter and peat, mixing in a little sand or perlite to improve drainage.
Replant the “mother” bulb in the same place, or repot into a slightly larger container, if desired. There should be a maximum of two inches of space between the bulb and the side of the container, so don’t choose one that’s too large!
Place the pot with the offsets in a sunny window and keep it indoors until the bulb has grown to at least two or three inches in diameter.
Water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. You should see new growth starting within a few weeks.
While some varieties will grow quickly and bloom the season after you have separated the offsets, others may take a couple of years to bloom.
If you are moving offsets outside, plant in a bed of well drained soil mixed with organic matter in a lightly shaded area.
Leave the top third exposed and keep the soil evenly moist until the plants have taken root and you see evidence of new growth.
This method involves making several vertical cuts through a mature bulb to create new plants. It’s also known as cuttage or twin scaling.
After it has finished flowering, dig up the established bulb and cut it vertically from the top to the base into four or more pieces, a bit like cutting a pie.
Make sure that each cut section has a portion of the stem tissue, or basal plate, attached at the bottom, and that each basal plate has at least two scales.
These “scales” should look similar to onion peels.
Dust the sections with a copper- or sulfur-based fungicide to prevent any fungal infections from taking hold on the new divisions.
You can plant each section in a four- to six-inch container filled with well draining potting soil, or a mixture of peat and sand or perlite. Be sure to plant it with the basal plate facing downwards.
Cover about two thirds of the way up with soil, leaving the top of the section exposed. Water well, and then maintain even moisture, but don’t let the soil become soggy or waterlogged.
In Zones 7 and colder, keep the pot indoors in a sunny windowsill through the winter.
Bulblets should begin to form between the scales in about a month or two, with leaves sprouting soon after, though you may still have to wait a couple of seasons for them to flower!
If you like, you can choose to transplant outdoors in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.
In Zones 9 and above, you can plant the divided sections in dappled sun or part shade in a well draining garden bed. Mulch during the winter to protect young plants from any potential freeze thaw cycles.
Fill Your Home with Flowers
Propagating amaryllis flowers is so simple! All it takes is one bulb and a little bit of patience, and you can easily transform a single flower into a massive bouquet.
You will soon be able fill your home with beautiful blooms, or even gift them to friends and family for the holidays!
Have you had success propagating amaryllis? Share your experience in the comments below!
And to learn more about amaryllis, check out these guides next:
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Clare Groom.
About Heather Buckner
Heather Buckner hails from amongst the glistening lakes of Minnesota, and now lives with her family on a beautiful homestead in the Vermont Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Tufts University, and has traveled and worked in many roles in conservation and environmental advocacy, including creating and managing programs based around resource conservation, organic gardening, food security, and building leadership skills. Heather is a certified permaculture designer and student herbalist. She is also a fanatical gardener, and enjoys spending as much time covered in dirt as possible!