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Red amaryllis flower.
Emerging like pink firecrackers from areas of baked soil in autumn, the belladonna lily (amaryllis) is indeed a “Beautiful Lady”. With sweet-smelling lily-like blooms that intoxicate the air, this bulb is worthy of a place in any garden.


What you need to know about amaryllis

Name: belladonna lily, naked lady, Jersey lily, Easter lily, Amaryllis belladonna.

Height: 60–75cm,

Foliage: long, strappy, succulent green leaves appear after the flowers, growing from the neck of the bulb at ground level.

Climate: best in warm temperate or hot climates with dry summers and wet winters.

Soil: must be very well-drained soil. Tolerates poor soils.

Position: full sun for most of the day. The bulb requires baking in the sun for improved flowering.

Flowering and fruiting: sturdy 60–75cm stems arise in late summer/early autumn, topped with 3–12 beautiful, funnel-shaped, fragrant flowers. Flower colours include shades of pink and white.

Feeding: use a controlled-release organic fertiliser after flowering, before the leaves appear.

Watering: regular watering during flowering. Do not water after the leaves die down. Keep dry during summer.

Appearance and characteristics of amaryllis

Amaryllis is a stunning autumn flowering bulb perfect for growing in warm climates. The flowers emerge like a rocket of riotous colour in autumn, with a dazzling display of 6–12 funnel-shaped blooms atop sturdy 60–75cm tall stems arising from leafless bulbs. The colour of the flowers ranges from shades of pale pink to deep magenta and pure white. Large strappy leaves follow the flowers in autumn, growing through until late spring before they die down again. The large bulbs then go dormant, and bake in the summer sun without any water before another dazzling display the following autumn.

A group of pink amaryllis flowers

How to grow amaryllis


The Amaryllis genus is represented by only one species, Amaryllis belladonna. Originating in the coastal hills and streamside locations of the Western Cape Province in South Africa, it grows in warm temperate or hot climates.  

Amaryllis requires full sun or partial shade to flower well, and needs a good baking in summer without any additional water. In areas with summer rainfall, grow it in a large pot in full sun, but position it either under the eaves of the house or with some additional cover from rain or irrigation water.

Plant amaryllis in mixed borders or in containers, where it will form a spectacular display, and where watering can be easily controlled. There are now a number of intergeneric hybrids between Amaryllis and Crinum (x Amarcrinum) and Brunsvigia (x Amarygia) that are becoming more widely available.


Amaryllis need a very well-drained soil, although most gardens with poor soils can be made suitable with the addition of aged or composted organic matter before planting. A slightly acidic soil with a pH of between 6 and 6.5 is preferred. Don’t worry, testing and adjusting your soil pH is easy.

Always use a premium standard potting mix in pots and containers, and keep your amaryllis well-watered when it is in flower in autumn, and when it is in leaf from autumn through to spring.

Caring for amaryllis


After flowering in autumn, but before the leaves appear, apply a controlled-release organic fertiliser specifically for flowering plants.

How to plant amaryllis

1. Plant the large bulbs with the neck of the bulb just above the top of the soil, between summer and early autumn.

2. In the ground, space the bulbs 15–20cm apart. In pots and containers, place one bulb per 200mm pot.

3. Leave clumps undisturbed over time for improved flowering.

How to prune amaryllis

1. To conserve the bulb’s reserves for flowering next year, cut down the flower heads and stems once flowering has ceased.

2. Remove spent foliage in late spring.

3. Flower stems may be cut for indoor flower arrangements.

Diseases and pests

Amaryllis is highly resistant to pests, with only irregular damage to the large leaves from snails and slugs. From autumn to late spring, apply iron chelate-based snail pellets around the clumps.

In warm, humid environments leaf scorch can affect amaryllis bulbs, causing red-brown scorched leaf tips and spotting that may spread further down the leaf. Remove affected leaves immediately and spray the plant with a copper-based fungicide to reduce the spread.

How to propagate amaryllis

Dividing amaryllis plants

Amaryllis can be lifted and divided after the foliage has completely died down in late spring or early summer. It should then be replanted as soon as possible.

If you like this then try

Tulip: spring-flowering bulb with large, showy, bright and colourful goblet-shaped flowers on long stems, perfect for massed displays.

Lily: exquisite and delicate blooms on elegant tall stems, in an amazing array of colours and shapes.

Cycad: prehistoric plant dating from before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, with tree fern-like growth habits suitable for growing in tropical and arid temperate climates.

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