An Amaryllis that grows without any water, a vase or general care. Just stick it on a table and walk away. What is this sorcery? Waxed Amaryllis bulbs. Here's how to make them.
Now is the time to start thinking about getting some Amaryllis bulbs if you'd like to wax some so they're ready to bloom at Christmas.
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What's a waxed amaryllis?
Years ago I saw Amaryllis bulbs that had been dipped in wax at my local garden centre. I didn't know what they were and figured they were just Amaryllis bulbs that had been dipped in wax to look pretty. At around $34 for a bulb I wasn't intrigued enough to read anymore about them on the box.
Fast forward to this year when I saw them again and realized the magic of them is the fact that you can just place them anywhere and they'll grow. Along a mantle, down the centre of a dining room table tucked into greenery. They're less expensive this year, around $20, but they're still a lot more than a plain Amaryllis bulb - which is between $8-$15 per bulb depending on the rarity and quality of it.
omgomgomgomgomg. THIS is what my DIY dreams are made of. I got to work immediately figuring this out.
Did I mention this would make a GREAT hostess gift this season?
After some online research and reading on Amaryllis bulbs I got a handle on it. The wax part was fairly obvious. Wax would hold the moisture in the bulb. But according to the makers of these wax bulbs there was some super secret process the bulbs went through to make sure they'd bloom without additional water.
Since it was pretty easy to figure out how they got the Caramilk into the Caramilk bar I was pretty confident I'd crack the secret to the waxed bulbs.
I gave it some thought, did some more research and decided the two things you'd need to do to ensure success was twofold.
1. Soak the Amaryllis bulbs in water so they're fully hydrated before you wax them.
2. Cut off the bulb's basal plate (the flat part the roots grow out of) to shock it into thinking it's dying which forces it into trying desperately to reproduce itself - by flowering.
My experiment seems to have worked. And I have to say I like the way these homemade wax Amaryllis bulbs look better than the store bought ones. For one thing, you can customize them.
At first glance I thought the store bought waxed bulbs were made with metallic wax, but it's just regular paraffin wax that's been spray painted.
If you have all the stuff you can also make coloured wax by mixing regular wax with wax dye, but I didn't do that. I just wanted a quick DIY not a whole "thing" that would end up costing more money than just buying one pre-made.
So instead of trying to make metallic wax for instance, I gold leafed the bulb afterwards with gold leaf I found at the Dollar Store. Other bulbs I left natural, with just white wax covering them, part of the darker bulb skin showing through and and most of the bulbs I sprinkled the white wax generously with white dollar store sparkles to make them glitter.
All in all this "I'm cheaping out" experiment has been a complete success and these waxed Amaryllis bulbs are going to be beautiful around the house throughout the holidays.
Here's how to do it:
How to Make Waxed Amaryllis Bulbs
- Soak Amaryllis bulb in lukewarm water for 4-8 hours.
- Cut off the roots, including the basal plate.
- Let the bulb dry for a few hours.
update: Wrap the bulb in plastic wrap before waxing it.
- Melt wax (I used old candle stubs but if you don't have those use some paraffin wax) over low heat.
- Paint the wax on the Amaryllis bulbs from the neck down covering the sides and base.
- Gold leaf or cover in sparkles if glitzy is your thing.
- Place the bulbs in a warm area of the house to encourage growth.
The length of time it takes to flower usually around 6 weeks with store bought Amaryllis bulbs. I can't give you a timeline on this because mine haven't flowered yet, but the flower bud has popped up out of the bulb so I know it's only a matter of time.
I save my short, burned candles all the time. Half the time I look at them in the cupboard and think WHAT am I saving this crap for. The other half I pull them out and think WELL thank the lord I saved this crap. (I also use spent candles for making homemade fire starters.)
I didn't dip the entire bulb into the hot wax because I felt like it would be too much of a shock to the bulb. Painting it on felt more gentle.
Paint the wax on until there's a good thick coating of wax all over the bulb. It'll take several layers.
The gold foil is VERY fiddly to get on the wax. Make sure your wax is still hot when you apply the gold foil and press it into the wax with your fingers or the palm of your hand until you think it's really stuck. And repeat. Like a million times.
It's a huge pain but the result is kindda breathtaking.
The easier way to fancy up the waxed bulb is to sprinkle it with sparkles as soon as you're done waxing it.
I used white sparkles on white wax but you could do whatever you wanted. Green sparkles on green wax, green sparkles on white wax, gold sparkles on white wax ... how many more examples do you need?
I've also left my wax drippy looking. I did that on purpose. If you want things perfectly smooth just smooth the wax out with your finger or the brush while the wax is warm.
How long do waxed amaryllis bulbs last?
It takes an Amaryllis bulb around 3 weeks to show signs of growth after planting it.
It takes 6-12 weeks for the Amaryllis to *bloom* from the day it is planted.
You can speed this process up by keeping the bulb in a very warm room of 27 C (80F). Conversely you can slow the blooming time down by putting it in a cool room of around 10 C (50 F).
Each amaryllis blooms will last about 5 days.
When to start them for Christmas blooms
This is a bit of a crapshoot because different varieties of amaryllis take different lengths of time to grow and bloom. But generally speaking, for Christmas blooms, you should plant your bulbs in early to mid November.
Bulbs you buy in a box kit from the grocery store or garden centre may have already sprouted in the box! If they have, you'll get blooms a few weeks earlier - so plant them accordingly.
If a bulb shows NO signs of green growth, it will take a few weeks longer to produce a bloom.
Can you regrow the waxed bulbs
If the entire growth plate at the bottom of the bulb isn't completely cut off, there *is* a possibility that the amaryllis can live another day.
So when your amaryllis is done blooming you can either throw it in the garbage, scrape the wax off and compost the bulb, or scrape the wax off and replant the bulb in soil.
For replanting follow these steps.
- After your waxed amaryllis has bloomed and the blooms have finished, cut the bloom stalks off, but leave the leaves on the plant.
- Scrape the wax off of the bulb.
- Plant it in soil and continue to care for it like any other house plant.
- Once spring weather arrives and frost is no longer a threat you can put the potted amaryllis outside for the summer, taking care of it as necessary. Amaryllis plants need little water so don't overwater them. You can plant them straight in the garden as well.
- Dig it up September 1st, cut off the leaves and a lot of the roots (leave 3-4" of roots)
- Place bulb in a paper bag and store in a cool room to dry out and go dormant.
- On November 1st, replant them in a small pot.
- They'll rebloom in 6-8 weeks.
*you don't have to immediately pot it up after 8 weeks. You can wait another month before potting it up if you like.
Waxed bulb tips
- Don't soak your bulb in water for longer than 8 hours. It can turn to mush.
- When you cut off the basal plate make sure you do it straight so your bulb isn't tippy. Your flat cut is what will keep the bulb stable.
- If you're using spent candles for your wax, like I did, cut the burnt part of the wick off otherwise it'll get your wax dirty looking. Don't worry about getting rid of the wick, the wax will just melt away from it.
- For heating your wax I HIGHLY recommend putting the wax in a tin can and setting that can in a pot with some water in the bottom. It keeps your pots clean. Plus if you have leftover wax you can just put the whole can, wax and all in the cupboard and pull it out when you need to wax something else.
- Don't forget to wax the bottom of the bulb. The whole point of waxing is to help the bulb retain moisture so as much of the bulb needs to be waxed as possible.
- I used Dollar Store gold leaf which was basically a mess of small gold leaf pieces. To make things easier you can buy whole sheets of gold leaf.
Amaryllis Bulb Buying Guide
When you buy your bulbs for waxing pay special attention to the size of the amaryllis. Amaryllis with HUGE flowers are going to be very top heavy and have a tendency to tip over.
Also pay attention to the bloom time. Different bulbs take different lengths of time to bloom. To get your flower to be on full display at the time you want you need to know how long that particular variety takes to flower.
Most grocery stores carry box kits of Amaryllis bulbs and that's where I usually pick mine up. But if you want something other than the standard white or red flowers there are speciality bulbs you can order online.
This red and white specialty Amaryllis looks paint spattered.
Not in love with the traditional red & white? This orangey coral coloured ones would look beautiful.
More subtle, but still a deviation from red or white.
Sure it's red ... but look at it! A double amaryllis with double the petals.
Those are just a few. If you go even further into Amaryllis world you can order from specialty places like Brecks but they're already starting to sell out of a lot of bulbs.
Making these waxed bulbs is fun to do. Like, 100%, I should totally have a bulb waxing party. Which of course would be much more fun than any other sort of waxing party. It's easy, the results are great and it's weirdly satisfying to paint wax on a bulb then cover it with gold foil or sparkles.
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