You Can Grow Amaryllis Outdoors in the Southwest

Save your Christmas amaryllis and plant it outdoors in your Southwest landscape! (Only if it doesn’t get below 15 degrees F where you live). Amaryllis will grow and bloom for years to come. But! Don’t do this in winter – wait just a bit.

Amaryllis are from…

You have heard me rant about common names before. Sadly this is another case of the common name being applied to two different plants. Luckily they are in the same family at least. Many “amaryllis” are technically in the genus Hipppeastrum – from South America. But just to confuse you further – a number of “amaryllis” are indeed Amaryllis – and they come from South Africa! Care of the two genera is slightly different so I’m going to tell you what works for me for both – here in my Middle Desert garden.

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Save the Bulbs Indoors for Now

Bulbs that have been at indoor room temperature will die if exposed to temps below 55, yes even if they are in a cozy bed of soil. (I killed a few that way.) Keep the bulbs growing inside until the night temps outside will reliably stay above 55 degrees. In Low Desert this will be around March 1. In Middle Desert wait till St. Patrick’s Day.

Yes the leaves will get really long an leggy in the lower light indoors. Do NOT cut the leaves or the bloom stalk, or fertilize them. Just let them be.

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On Groundhog Day these amaryllis are SO ready to go outside – but it’s still too cold out.

Amaryllis Are Picky About Outdoor Space

There are two equally important issues that must be addressed – soil and shade.

Soil – Amaryllis of all kinds need well-drained soil. If they stay too wet they will rot.
Shade – Afternoon shade in summer is required in the Southwest or they will bake and die.

Remember – you are only doing this if it doesn’t get below 15 degrees F where you live.

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The amaryllis planted out several years ago bloom every year around the first of April.

Plant Deeply Enough

Once you found that perfect site – planting depth is important. When amaryllis are Christmas plants you put them in a little pot with their noses above ground. Don’t do this outdoors in the Southwest no matter what they do elsewhere. (Killed two more that way).

In the Southwest – with our low humidity – plant amaryllis with the tip of the bulb right at the soil line. Then add an inch of well-draining mulch that protects them from excessive heat and cold. I currently use cedar bark mulch. In my former house I used downed leaves from the shrubs the bulbs were tucked around.

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This is how you plant them indoors – but not outdoors!

Patience is Required

When you first plant your amaryllis outdoors – allow the long leaves to fall all around the plant and do lots of photosynthesis and send lots of energy down into the bulb so it can continue it’s life. Not pretty in the garden to start with but once the bulb has enough stored energy, it will allow those leaves to die and it will grow thick beautiful new leaves that are more compact and tidy. The bulb also have enough energy to bloom next year.

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This is the outdoors amaryllis on Groundhog Day. They stayed green this winter, but the local critters have been munching on them – even though they have an number of pest deterring compounds in their leaves.

Three More Amaryllis Tips for the Southwest

Plant amaryllis at least a foot apart. Those big bulbs need some elbow room to grow well.

You can fertilize established bulbs with all your landscape plants – Easter, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. A general purpose fertilizer is best.

Some people suggest cutting off the bloom stalk (deadheading) – but it is not necessary. It is green and does photosynthesis just like the leaves do. Deadheading is only necessary if the plant in question re-blooms in the same season, like roses.

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soule-southwest-gardenMore about growing colorful flowers every month of the year in this book: Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.

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6 thoughts on “You Can Grow Amaryllis Outdoors in the Southwest

  1. I am in zone 8 north of Kingman AZ. I have been bringing my amaryllis bulbs into a shed for winter and never thought they could go outside here. It does get cold here but not down to 15 degrees. They don’t seem to want to go dormant though like they do in other parts of the country. Can you tell me what is ‘middle desert’?

    1. Good Question Patricia. You are in the Middle Dessert.

      I was all set to send you to the page I published on this website about that and discovered the page is corrupted. (#*@$%!!!) I’m going paste the paragraph from what is supposed to be on that page and then go try to deal with this issue.

      Southwest USDA Zones with Gardening In the Land of El Sol Zones

      USDA Cold Hardiness Zones in the Southwest range from 10B to 4A, totaling 14 categories. Rather than tediously referring to these zones, I divide your gardening tasks primarily into “lower,” “middle,” and “upper” elevations.

      Lower elevations – USDA Zones 10B to 9A – includes Ajo, Alamogordo, Bullhead City, Las Cruces, Parker, Phoenix, Yuma. Some of these cities routinely experience mild winter freezes while others rarely do.

      Middle Elevations 8B-7B
      includes Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Alpine, El Paso, Gallup, Kingman, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lordsburg, Safford, Sierra Vista, Socorro, Tonopah, Tucson, Wilcox. These cities routinely experience moderate to severe winter freezes.

      Upper elevations – USDA Zones 7A to 4A – includes Carson City, Colorado Springs, Durango, Elko, Ely, Fallon, Flagstaff, Gallup, Holbrook, Prescott, Reno, St. George, Santa Fe, Sedona, Show Low, Taos, Window Rock, and Winnemucca. These areas always freeze in winter, and often experience below zero weather.

      1. Thank you! So I’m wondering since I am sitting on caliche can I do the amaryllis in big pots instead of in ground? I do daylilies that way and have good luck.

        1. Daylilies do indeed need the nice pH found in potting soil but I have found amaryllis to be more tolerant of alkaline soils.

          The bed you see in the picture of the nibbled plant is caliche dug with a pick axe to loosen then added sand, some peagravel, and one bag of peat moss for a garden bed about as big as a twin bed. I only dug down about 6-8 inches to break thru the caliche in a few spots. Once plants start growing in an area, they loosen it further.

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