For the holidays and beyond


A popular gift during the holiday season, the amaryllis is a symbol of determination, beauty, and love. According to Greek mythology, the amaryllis originated from the love that a maiden named Amaryllis had for a shepherd named Alteo, who loved only flowers. Amaryllis desperately longed for Alteo’s affection, so she traveled to the Oracle of Delphi for advice. She was instructed to pierce her heart nightly for thirty nights as she stood outside Alteo’s home. On the thirtieth night, a striking flower sprung from the blood of Amaryllis’s heart and Alteo fell in love.


Early each November, the reliable plant makes its seasonal debut at many local markets about town, including Trader Joe’s, where the bulbous bases are covered with colored wax. 

Last December, I bought several amaryllises to give as gifts; I also bought one for myself. My amaryllis has amazed me ever since, blooming and blooming again—often with two blossoms! Although I cannot promise the same results, I have some basic tips to share. 

If your amaryllis is coated with wax, it requires very little care. All the nutrients are packed in its round bulb, and it does not need watering. Simply set it in a spot indoors where it gets indirect light. It takes about three to six weeks for a waxed bulb to grow leaves and bloom spike. Usually, waxed bulbs are discarded after their blooms fade because the plant has no more water or nutrients. This was not the case with my amazing bulb.

It kept giving me beautiful leaves and blossoms. I wondered how it could thrive through months on end without water. I tried adding water where the stem met the wax but then thought better of it. There was no way to get the water down to the roots of the bulb and I worried that the water might rot the plant. So, I quickly turned it over in the sink and tried to dry the area. Luckily the plant did not die. In fact, it had enough liquid to put up more leaves and another bloom spike and bloom again.


If your amaryllis is not covered with wax, it’s a good candidate for the garden. Plant the bulb in a ten-inch container filled loosely with potting soil. Water the soil regularly until the flower bud is well out of the bulb. Water more frequently to keep the soil moist, but do not get the top of the bulb wet. Keep the amaryllis in a warm, shady location for the first four weeks. Once the flower bud is six to eight inches high, the plant can be moved to a cooler, brighter location. Keep it in its pot, or plant it in the ground. Limit direct exposure to the sun and water often until it is established.

If you want to encourage your amaryllis to bloom again, bring it back inside in the fall. Prune all the leaves and store it in a closet where it can rest for a couple of months. In December, bring your plant into the light and begin watering it again.

The amaryllis commonly means determination, beauty, and love, and my experience with one of these beautiful plants has demonstrated all those qualities. I hope everyone treats themselves to at least one this holiday season. Perhaps they too will enjoy the seeming magic of the amaryllis bulb!

Francesca Filanc grew up in Del Mar. Her artwork and writings can be enjoyed at francescafilanc.com. Select paintings are available for purchase at Solana Beach Art and Frame.