Amaryllis is the type genus for the family Amaryllidaceae. Although it is the common name used for hybrid hippeastrums which are found on the Hippeastrum Hybrids page, there are actually only two species in this genus and one of them was only recently discovered. Both are found in the winter rain area of South Africa.

Many Amaryllis selections have been made, and the species has also been hybridized very heavily with related genera for more than a century. To learn more about the history of some of these hybrids, read this conversation between David Sneddon and Jim Lykos, two Australian members of the PBS list. An example of these is xAmarcrinum, a hybrid between Amaryllis and Crinum. See also xAmarygia.

For more information and photos of some of the hybrids see Amaryllis hybrids, Les Hannibal hybrids 1-25, and Les Hannibal hybrids 26-48.

Amaryllis and its hybrid relatives have relatively large bulbs (the size of a softball or larger), and grow with the top of the bulb at the surface of the soil. The flower stalk is about two feet tall (0.7 m). Flowering is in fall, with individual florets opening over a period of a couple of weeks. The hybrids bloom over a period of 6-8 weeks, with different plants blooming at slightly different times. Flowering may be stimulated by summer fires, clearing away the weeds and other plant debris over them, and/or summer thundershowers. The flowers appear before the strap-shaped green leaves, which grow throughout winter and die back in spring.

The plants are hardy to light frost, but prolonged freezes or hard frosts may damage the leaves and prevent flowering the next year. These bulbs are grown widely in Australia, and also thrive in coastal areas of California (USDA zones 9-10). They are harder to grow in inland areas of the state, where they do not bloom as reliably. We're not sure if the better flowering on the coast is due to milder temperatures there, or fog and higher humidity during the summer. If you're trying them inland, very occasional summer watering may help as it will keep the fleshy roots from drying out. But too much summer moisture will rot them.

Most bulb species should be transplanted when they are dormant (no leaves), but this is not true of Amaryllis and their relatives. The best time to transplant Amaryllis is just after they bloom in the fall, as the leaves are starting to emerge. Give the bulbs a good soaking at bloom time so the soil will be soft, then dig them up as the blooms fade. Save as many roots as you can. Separate the clumps gently, and plant the bulbs into a new spot that has also been watered so the soil is ready for them. Keep the roots lightly moist during this process. Plant them with their tops at ground level. If you transplant in summer while the bulbs are dormant, they may not flower for a year or two.

Amaryllis are notoriously difficult to flower in other parts of the United States. If you're trying them in those areas, take special care to protect them from rain in summer, and avoid winter freezing. If you're using pots, make them large ones, as these are massive bulbs with very large root systems. If you have trouble growing Amaryllis, you might want to try Lycoris, which have similar flowers but are much more tolerant of wet summers.

Amaryllis belladonna, known to many as "Naked Ladies" because the flowers are pink to white and bloom before the leaves develop, is found in loamy soils in seasonally moist sites in the Cape Floral Province. It has a great variation in time of bloom, starting in summer and extending into fall. It has naturalized in many mediterranean climates throughout the world and is especially popular in California.

A second species, named Amaryllis paradisicola, was described in 1998. It is not in general cultivation. A short description and link to a photo can be found here.

Many people confuse Lycoris squamigera and Amaryllis belladonna because both bloom in the fall on bare stalks with no leaves, and both can have large pink flowers. You can see the differences on the Amaryllis belladonna versus Lycoris squamigera page.

There have been many discussions on the PBS list about how to get Amaryllis belladonna to bloom. Members living in Mediterranean climates are much more likely to get it to bloom. People have said the bulbs need to stick out of the ground and they have also said they need to be covered. Some summer water may help, but you also hear a dry dormancy is helpful. Plants in the ground bloom better than plants in pots and plants growing in the sun are much more likely to bloom than ones in the shade. One factor that influences blooming in the wild is fire. After a summer fire, there is usually good bloom in the fall in the wild. In September 2009 a restaurant burned to the ground in northern California denuding the slope below which was covered with low growing vegetation. Several weeks later spikes were appearing. It's hard to know when or if these bulbs were planted since the slope is steep and it would seem to be impossible to plant them. The photos from Mary Sue Ittner don't really capture how steep the slope is since I had to take the pictures with my zoom lens from the bottom. The third picture was taken the following month when more flowers were open. In 2012 the slope is now covered with non native weedy vegetation and the plants are no longer flowering.

Amaryllis belladonna after fire, Mary Sue IttnerAmaryllis belladonna after fire, Mary Sue IttnerAmaryllis belladonna after fire, Mary Sue Ittner

An article in Veld & Flora magazine described the plants' strong response to fire in the wild, and speculated that they bloom more frequently in cultivation because weeds are removed from around them. The article has been reproduced here.

The first photo by Bob Rutemoeller shows some in bloom September 2004 on the Mendocino coast in northern California. Photos 2-4 are by Nhu Nguyen. Photo #2 is from a yard in Berkeley, CA and #3 from the UC Botanical Garden showing these plants blooming dramatically en masse. The plants from the UC Botanical Garden bloomed in an early year in mid July, 2008. Photo #4 is a closeup. The last two photos from Mary Sue Ittner show a close-up of one flower and leaves.

Amaryllis belladonna Mendocino Coast, Bob RutemoellerAmaryllis belladonna, Nhu NguyenAmaryllis belladonna, Nhu NguyenAmaryllis belladonna, Nhu NguyenAmaryllis belladonna, Mary Sue IttnerAmaryllis belladonna leaves, Mary Sue Ittner

Photos from Bob Rutemoeller below show blooms along the Mendocino Coast August 2014 where they are growing in full sun with no summer water.

Amaryllis belladonna, Gualala, Bob RutemoellerAmaryllis belladonna, Gualala, Bob RutemoellerAmaryllis belladonna, Gualala, Bob RutemoellerAmaryllis belladonna, Gualala, Bob RutemoellerAmaryllis belladonna, Mendocino Coast, Bob RutemoellerAmaryllis belladonna, Mendocino Coast, Bob Rutemoeller

Photographs by David Pilling with the first one of (less than flowering size) bulbs four years after the seed was sown (the coin is about an inch in diameter) and the second showing a flower emerging. Photos 3 and 4 are of commercially supplied bulbs of the white variety on a 10 mm grid.

Amaryllis belladonna bulbs, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna flower emerging, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna bulb, 15th October 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna bulb, 15th October 2013, David Pilling

David Pilling describes his experience of buying three bulbs on ebay in the following paragraphs. Apparently a large clump was being dug up and I thought they might flower well if they had survived in someone's garden for some time; every piece of root had been removed from the bulbs and they took time to settle down. It was reasonable to put them all in an 8" pot. In 2012, a year with a spring and summer dark, cold and wet by even the demanding standards of the North of England, one bulb flowered in the middle of October (the bulbs had gone dormant in August). It came as a surprise to me that the flowers are fragrant.

In the first photo the top of the tape is 18" above the surface of the soil. The next photo shows how the flower colour changes (old flower on the left). Photo three is of unopened anthers; photo four shows them in various stages of opening. The last two photos show the tip of the style and the style with with pollen applied.

Amaryllis belladonna, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna anthers, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna anthers, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna style, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna style with pollen, David Pilling

In 2013, two bulbs produced flowers. The photos below show detail from the tips of the flower petals. A question to the PBS list as to what these structures did and were called, brought forth a comprehensive reply from Dylan Hannon. They are called "cohering keels" and keep the flower closed until it has developed fully. The classic paper on the subject is "Cohering Keels in Amaryllids and Related Plants" by H. Harold Hume Proceedings of the Florida Academy of Sciences (1: 48-57, 1936). More photos can be seen for Nerine bowdenii.

Amaryllis belladonna petal tip, 29th September 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna petal tip, 29th September 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna petal tip, 30th September 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna petal tip, 30th September 2013, David Pilling

In 2014, there were four flower stems. I cross pollinated the flowers by hand; for a long time I thought this had failed; but eventually I became convinced there were seed pods and after more time this proved correct. In other words seed development is slow. The photos below show the time line; hover over them to see the dates; in total 11 weeks from flower stem appearing to seed.

Amaryllis belladonna flower stems, 1st September 2014, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna flowers, 12th September 2014, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna seed pod, 7th October 2014, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna stem with seed pod compared to those without, 22nd October 2014, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna seed pod splitting open, 12th November 2014, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna one seed pod and contents, 19th November 2014, David Pilling

Photograph of one of the seeds which was left outside (in frost free conditions) and germinated at the end of Winter.

Amaryllis belladonna germinating seed, 18th March 2015, David Pilling

Amaryllis hybrids - Les Hannibal Hybrids 1-25 - Les Hannibal Hybrids 26-48 - x Amarcrinum - x Amarygia

Return to the PBS wiki Photographs And Information page

06.03.2014 - 08:30  

Maggie (Tupper Lake,NY)

my Red amaryllis the last few years has produced a pink blossom why the change in color. is it related to soil pH? or just age. I've had it for 12 years.

07.03.2014 - 05:58  

David Pilling (Blackpool, England)

Hi Maggie - I wonder if your plant is what the botanists call Amaryllis (like on this page - grow outside flower at the end of Summer), or what is commonly called Amaryllis but is correctly called Hippeastrum (usually grown indoors in pots). If it is in a pot perhaps it needs fresh compost.

25.09.2014 - 11:37  

Christine (Yuma, AZ)

I am looking for size, hardiness, zones, water needs, how long and when the bloom time is, and where to plant them. I live in the desert so often general description do not help I need specifics.

26.09.2014 - 13:51  

Michael Mace (San Jose, CA)

Good question, Christine. I added some details.

12.11.2014 - 12:00  

Tammy (Spring, TX)

I am looking for an Amaryllis that is often referred to as "Candy Cane" it's coloration makes it look just like one. I had one but when my HUSBAND cleaned out the flower bed it somehow did not come back. PLEASE HELP!!!!!

12.11.2014 - 12:12  

Michael Mace (San Jose, CA)

Tammy, your best bet is to check our Sources directory. Go to the top of this page, click Table of Contents, and then scroll down until you find the link labeled Sources. Click there and do a search. Good luck!

09.04.2015 - 16:21  

John Eathorne (Ayr North Queensland Australia)

Do you sell Amaryllis bulbs and seeds.

09.04.2015 - 16:35  

David Pilling (Blackpool, England)

PBS does not sell bulbs and seeds to order. You may find what you seek in the regular bulb (BX) and seed (SX) exchanges the PBS runs. Click on PBS in the menu bar right at the top of this page to learn more.

04.05.2015 - 07:36  

Ken Hettman (Half Moon Bay)

We have 1000's of large Pink Naked Lady Bulbs for sale cheap. Please call Ken at xxxxxxxxx.

09.07.2015 - 17:13  

Lucy (Melbourne )

Hi Ken Hettman, I would be interested in your Naked Lady Bulbs. My number is xxxxxxxxxx.

09.07.2015 - 17:26  

David Pilling (Blackpool, England)

Lucy - Google if you want to find Ken.

20.08.2015 - 16:56  

Joy Cowley (Sacramento California )

I have light pink naked ladies but noticed that the ones in Mendocino California were a darker pink then mine. Is this because of variety or soil or something else? I really would like mine to be darker.

20.08.2015 - 18:02  

Mike M (San Jose, CA)

Hi, Joy. There are a couple of possible explanations. One is that warmer weather and direct sun can make the colors in these flowers fade a bit. Mendocino is a lot cooler and cloudier than Sacramento. The other possibility is that you may have seen some Amaryllis belladonna hybrids, which look much like the species but vary from pure white to dark cherry pink. Those are often sold as "naked ladies" on California. If you want to get some dark ones, go to the top of this page and click on Table of Contents, then scroll down and choose Sources. On the Sources page, scroll down to the listing for Bill the Bulb Baron and click on it. Bill carries a wide variety of Amaryllis color hybrids.

12.09.2015 - 12:54  

Jeanne Uzar (San Francisco, CA)

I would like to be to contact Ken in Half Moon Bay to buy some of his bulbs.

12.09.2015 - 14:06  

David Pilling (Blackpool, England)

Jeanne - Google Ken in Half Moon Bay amaryllis

09.03.2016 - 15:07  

Nobody (Somewhere in America)

Please include facts about Reproduction, Fertilization and Photosynthesis. thank you

26.03.2016 - 09:32  

Amelia Loftus (Chico, CA)

I would like to transplant my amaryllis. They are in "leaf" now. When the leaves die back can I transplant them then? I don't want to do anything that will cause them not to bloom in late summer. Thanks for your help

26.03.2016 - 10:50  

Mike M (San Jose, CA)

Great question, Amelia. With most bulbs, you should transplant them after the leaves die back. However, Amaryllis and their relatives have roots that stay plump and alive underground even when the leaves are dead. Digging up the bulbs and damaging the roots at this time can cause the bulbs to stop blooming for a year or two. The best time to dig Amaryllis is just after they bloom in the fall, as the leaves are starting to emerge. This is much less likely to interrupt the bloom cycle. I don't know that anyone has ever proven why this is, but the theory is that the plant can easily regrow the damaged roots when it is starting to grow in the fall, so it does not lose momentum. So, in the fall give the bulbs a good soaking at bloom time so the soil will be soft. Then dig them up as the blooms fade. Save as many roots as you can. Separate the clumps gently, and plant the bulbs into a new spot that has also been watered so the soil is ready for them. Don't let the roots dry out during this process. You don't have to keep them soaked in water, but keep them moist. Good luck!

14.08.2016 - 00:47  

Cori (Forestville, CA)

Can anyone tell me how and when so many naked ladies came to be planted in Sonoma/Mendocino Counties?

14.08.2016 - 04:07  

David Pilling (Blackpool, UK)

Cori - could be survivor bias - gardeners can be considered to have planted them uniformly over the whole world. In most places they do not thrive.

14.08.2016 - 08:03  

Mary Sue Ittner (Mendocino County)

I suspect it is because they are widely available, bloom without any attention when happy, and expand by seed and offsets so in time even if only one or two were planted in later years there can be many in that spot. When people have too many they dig them up and give them away.

27.09.2016 - 16:13  

Suze Duff (Seattle (Magnolia Neighborhood))

I've had naked ladies for years here at my home. Just dug a 2x1 ft area and found at least 50 of various sizes. Packed like sardines. Did not bloom well this year so dividing spreading around. Sandy loan and no summer water but lots of winter rain. Love to send a pic don't see where to do that. Be

07.12.2016 - 19:48  

Derek Perez (Corona, Ca)

If you're worried about bloom, just keep your garden weeded/mulched (as you should), full morning/filtered noon light, and dust them with ash. Piss on them during vege.

12.12.2016 - 19:20  

Jeff (Pasadena)

I want to buy naked lady bulb. Where do you recommend. It is special for me because they usually bloom on my birthday

12.12.2016 - 20:54  

Michael Mace (San Jose, CA)

Jeff, you should check our Sources page. Choose the link "Table of Contents" above and select Sources.

08.08.2018 - 05:58  

Vivs Laliberte (Garden Grove, CA)

We have many Amaryllis in pots that we keep going all year in this climate. One pot in particular (I am unsure of the varietal) looses all of its leaves by mid July (The others keep their leaves til December and sometimes all year.) I am curious as to the watering habits for the one that dies back so early. I don't want to ignore it and kill the bulbs that way, nor do I want to over water it and have the bulb rot. All of the bulbs seem to rebloom fine (though they generally put out leaves first, not stalks) even in our warm winters climate .

 Your comment - do not enter web page addresses - comments which include them will not be posted.
The following menu is in beta testing phase - feel free to discuss it on the list!
 See Comments policy

Page last modified on March 26, 2016, at 11:05 AM