Amaryllis from seed.

I’ve grown Amaryllis belladonna in the garden for many years. Some years they are spectacular, some they barely flower at all. Maybe our climate is on the edge of what they like and only a particularly hot year suits them, maybe I just let too much else grow up around them and shade them.

What they have never done is produce seed. I have a couple of clones but they are not in flower at the same time, so maybe they are not self fertile; probably it is just not hot enough here.

I don’t recall how the subject arose, but Tony Tomeo, in California, has them naturalised around where he lives and very kindly sent me some seed. I say ‘some’, I am talking industrial quantities, perhaps 500 seeds. They are fleshy and the size of big peas, it was a fair sized packet. All the books say they deteriorate very quickly and need to be sown straight away. A website I was looking at says they are recalcitrant, meaning they can’t stop themselves germinating. I understand the word to mean something completely different but there you go, what do I know?

One of my propagation books says to sow them singly in 9cm (3″) pots which I reckon would have covered about five square metres if I’d sown them all. I sowed them in 3L pots, about 60 to a pot, and put them on the window ledge beside me. That was 30th September. One or two were already showing signs of germinating, a small green shoot pushing out, but mostly not. They seem to have nearly all germinated now and have produced a single leaf, now around 15cm tall.

Seedlings germinating on my window ledge.

Most of the remaining seeds I gave away and I haven’t heard how they’re doing. I still had a few left and put them in a plastic bag, loosely tied, which has been sitting on my desk beside me here ever since. I had no need of any more but couldn’t bring myself to throw them out. I expected them to go to mush, start to stink and make dumping them easy. Instead they nearly all germinated and simply refused to die. Today, two months later, I caved in and sowed them. Like the others, they have gone in a three litre pot, dibbled into the surface, but there is no room by the window so they will have to take their chances in the greenhouse, which I aim to keep frost free but no more. I shall find out just how resilient they are.

Woeful neglect, still in the bag after two months.
Germinating seeds. The seed sends out a shoot, which pushes into the compost and becomes a root. The first leaf emerges part way along this shoot, heading upwards.
Very few failures, even though these were the smallest passed over seeds.
Sown in their new quarters, hardly a disaster if they fail, but it seems they may be tougher than one is led to believe.

Somewhere at the back of my mind is a question about what I am going to do with as many as 300 Amaryllis bulbs but as dilemmas go, it’s not the worst.

19 thoughts on “Amaryllis from seed.

    1. Looking online it seems 3-5 years but I bet that’s for people in hotter climates than ours. I think I’ll keep as many of mine under glass as I can for as long as I can. My flowering bulbs in the ground are huge.

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    1. It is true that what many people call Amaryllis is correctly called Hippeastrum. I’m hopeful that the seeds I have are of Amaryllis belladonna because if they’re not I don’t really have much use for them.

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  1. Oh my; perhaps I should have dumped some at this end. For me, it was easier to reallocate that problem. I hope they bloom sooner for you than five years. Although they supposedly prefer warmth to bloom, they do not need much warmth to grow vegetatively. They actually grow well on the coast here. Also, it seems to me that they bloom just as well on the beach as they do farther inland. It does not get as cold here as it does there, but it does not get very warm at the beach either. If your established bulbs bloom, these new seedlings eventually should as well.
    I know this species as Amaryllis belladonna, which is different from Hippeastrum . . . even though Hippeastrum is known by the common name of ‘amaryllis’. (I think it is like the Pelargonium species that are known ad geraniums, even though they are not really of the Geranium genus.)

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    1. It’s probably the case that if in five years time they flowered and were Hippeastrum, I wouldn’t have a clue where they’d come from or what they were supposed to be. I might keep them in pots for a few years, it’d be easier to move them to sunny places if something grew up and started to shade them.

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      1. I would say that such tough perennials would prefer to disperse their roots rather than stay confined to pots, BUT there are some here that have been in pots for a few years. They got dug up and left on the surface of a pot full of medium, and have been there since then. They bloom nicely annually, and provided some of the seed that is there now.

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      2. With chaparral plants that are native here, that is common. They do not even like being grown in cans. They prefer to grow on their own, where their seed happen to land.
        What is worse is landscapers selling big boxed trees to their clients (because it is more lucrative that way), but then the big boxed trees take so long to get established and grow that the smaller specimens of the same species grow up past them because they got established sooner.

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      3. The clients are often fools to themselves though, in that planting big trees is a statement in itself, (look how rich I am) like driving a powerful car. Planting whips would send the wrong message entirely (what a cheapskate I am). Willy syndrome trumps common sense every time.

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  2. Good morning. I found you searching the internet for how to deal with the seeds of Amaryllis belladonna. I have a question for Jim or do you have to do something with these seeds before planting? I’m Daniel I live in Poland, it’s the middle of Europe. Right now winter and temperatures up to -8 degrees Celsius. I bought some Amaryllis belladonna seeds and I want to plant them. How to make them germinate so nicely? Maybe you’ll tell me something? I will be grateful for any explanations. Thank you. Daniel

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    1. You really don’t have to do anything at all. The seeds started to germinate in the bag they came in, before I had sown any of them. I had hundreds, so I sowed a lot but still had a small plastic bag of them sitting on my desk for nearly two months, which all germinated and sat there until I gave in and planted, more than sowed them in a 3L pot. They have no dormancy mechanism to stop them germinating. The first batch I sowed in 3L pots, about 60 to a pot, just covered with compost and kept just moist. They are by the window, above a radiator which is turned off, so indoor temperature of 16-21C. The pot in the greenhouse is kept just above freezing, then with sun it can get warm by day. They are growing, but are slower. I only grew them from seed because another blogger, in California, sent me seed. I’ve never tried to grow them from seed before and have never looked to see if seed was available anywhere. The bulbs I have in my garden have never set seed, but I only have two clones and they don’t flower at the same time, so that may be why. I must look at my earlier article and see if I need to do an update. Good luck with your seed, let us know how you get on.

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  3. I apologize to myself again. You know what Jim think you should do some kind of Youtube video or write an article about how to get Amarillis belladonna from seeds. There is no video about it on Youtube. You would be the first. I was looking for how to make the seeds germinate. And only your site was the most interesting and with photos. It’s just like for the news that there is little information on how to receive Amaryllis belladonna from seeds. Ok. It’s just like that to explain why I’m writing to you.

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  4. Thank you very much Jim. I did just like you. The seeds are already planted. Your article gave me the courage to do with the seeds. I hope that some of them will grow? I’ll let you know in a few days. I would most like to send you pictures but I do not know how? Thank you You Jim. 😉

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