Waxed amaryllis bulbs are a perfect gift idea to bring to holiday parties or to use as little Christmas presents.
Ready for some giant bright blooms to counteract the grey of winter? Try making some waxed amaryllis bulbs as an easy DIY project.
About now, when the outside garden is put to bed, the days are cold and windy and Daylight Savings time has sucked the sunlight out of leisure hours, it’s fun to spend a little time on bright crafty projects.
Envision big, bold, bright blooms all over your house, just in time for the holidays and for people coming to visit.
I usually grow paperwhite bulbs around the holidays. As I looked for winter bulbs I came across waxed amaryllis. A single waxed amaryllis bulb is about $30, way too rich for my cheapskate ways.
The premise is that waxed amaryllis bulbs take no care and no water. They are self-contained and will grow wherever you put them.
It turns out that making waxed amaryllis bulbs is a fun, quick DIY project you can do at home. You can suit your own tastes by making them yourself instead of being limited by what’s in the store, for about half or a third of what you’d pay ready made. This time of the season, amaryllis bulbs are usually discounted, so you can get them for even less.
Bonus: Waxed paperwhite bulbs
As an experiment, I also tried waxing paperwhite bulbs. That way I could practice the technique before I tried my pricier amaryllis bulb.
For waxed paperwhites to flower, wax only the bulb part, leaving the root zone and growing tips. You’ll need to grow with water as usual, but they will have some wax decoration to go with their beautiful flowers.
Weird. What are waxed amaryllis bulbs?
Wax amaryllis bulbs use the reserves in the bulb to grow. They are ready to grow indoors, without water, anywhere that has cool bright light.
The amaryllis bulbs you buy for winter forcing are of the genus Hippeastrum, which originated in Brazil. Since they are a tropical or subtropical plant, they can only grow naturally in US garden zone 9–11, or in zone 8 or 7B with winter protection. People in colder climes need to bring them inside for a dormant period in the winter, or grow them as a winter forced bulb.
Because amaryllis have been intensely cultivated since 1799, there are a vast array of cultivars and species. Most amaryllis bulbs come from Dutch or South African growers, but there are also small growers in warmer parts of the US. The majority of amaryllis bulbs are grown for winter arrangements, with their giant red flowers.
Since the way the amaryllis bulbs are cut and waxed means they won’t grow again, reserve waxing for the common varieties you find in home improvement centers and for bulbs that are not destined for the garden. If you want to keep an amaryllis bulb to grow again, grow it in a pot to plant in the garden instead of waxing it.
Decorate your bulbs to suit your own tastes
Usually waxed amaryllis bulbs that you buy in home centers are painted with metallic spray paint, or dipped in glitter. You can style your own bulbs to fit your own tastes, which may or may not include glitter.
The bulbs I waxed are plain and sort of smooth, decorated with a bit of edible glitter for shine or a wash of metallic watercolor paint for some glimmer. You can decorate them with patterns using permanent marker and waxed paper, or paint designs.
You can make yours in any color you like, and make them smooth or more rustic with a textured look.
However you do it, you’ll have your own waxed bulbs that you can use all over the house or give as gifts, for a lot less than you can buy them in stores.
Gather up your materials
Bulbs: It’s easy to find amaryllis bulbs in a home improvement store starting in the fall and early winter. At Home Depot, I got Red Lion amaryllis bulbs for $10 each, plus a bag of 10 paperwhite Ziva bulbs for $10. Online, you can get Red Lion bulbs for as low as $8 each. The bigger the bulb, the more stems and flowers it will produce.
Wax: I like to get my white and colored wax from thrifted candles, or the ends of old candles we’ve used at home. I get beeswax from a local beekeeper. You can find candle making wax online or at hobby stores.
Brush: Wax will mess up your good brushes. Instead use a small foam brush or other old brush you can afford to dedicate to wax crafts.
Pan and jar: Use a small saucepan and a glass jar to melt your wax. I have a dedicated glass jar I use whenever I’m melting wax for crafts, personal care products and making mushroom logs.
Wire: Commercial waxed amaryllis bulbs include a coiled wire base to keep the bulb stable.
Crayons or wax dye: For coloring your wax
Candle thermometer: For fine tuning the wax temperature. This is absolutely optional.
Glitter: Use any glitter, or use edible glitter and sprinkles to stay away from plastic. You can use natural mica glitter for a more durable plastic-free glitter.
Sharpies and wax paper, blow dryer: for making and transferring drawn designs to the wax.
Metallic water-based paint: Use acrylic or watercolor paint to paint designs or put a wash of color on your bulbs.
Clear spray finish: to protect designs made with water-based paints.
How to wax amaryllis bulbs
The only make your own waxed amaryllis bulb tutorial I found is at The Art of Doing Stuff, a blog I recommend for all who like quirky, beautiful DIY projects. I found no tutorials for waxing smaller bulbs like paperwhites, but I did find a patent for a machine that waxes small bulbs while leaving the root zone free.
Soak your bulbs in water for 6–8 hours for amaryllis, or for 2–3 hours for the smaller paperwhites. Let the bulb dry for a bit so the wax will stick, but not so long that it dries out and needs to be resoaked.
For an amaryllis bulb, cut off the basal plate to shock the bulb into thinking it needs to procreate right now. Be sure to cut the plate straight across so the bulb sits flat after waxing. Do not cut paperwhite bulbs since they need their roots to grow in order to grow flowers.
Melt your candle wax in the double boiler, which is just a saucepan filled with water. Be sure burned bits of wick are removed before
melting so your wax doesn’t get dirty. Unburned bits of wick are all right and will sink to the bottom of the wax jar.
If you will color your wax, add the dye or crayons, or divide the wax and color one batch at a time for different colors.
Dip your brush in the wax and brush it onto the bulb. Add layers until the wax you can not see through the wax to the bulb beneath. The wax needs to be thick enough to hold the absorbed water in so the bulb can grow.
Be sure you wax the bottom of amaryllis bulbs where you cut, but leave the top growing tips free so the flowers can grow.
If you have enough wax and a big enough jar you can dip your bulb quickly and then cool it in a cold water container. Dry the bulb before you try dipping it again.
I found that waxing with white first and then waxing with red helped the red color stay true. Otherwise the dark papery layers make the bulb darker, which is also a nice look. It depends what you like. Liking a darker bulb is easier.
You may leave your bulbs plain, with interesting wax drips or smooth with a hot brush for a clean simple finish.
Three ways to decorate your waxed amaryllis bulbs
To decorate with glitter, add glitter while the wax is warm so the glitter will stick. If the wax cools, or you are decora
ting in a second
session, you can carefully use a blow dryer to soften the wax, or reapply some wax. Be careful not to heat the wax so much that it melts off the bulb.
Decorate with paint: You can use acrylic or watercolor or paint to paint a design or to paint a wash of color. Spray your design with a clear finish to protect it, or avoid handling your bulb after decoration.
To decorate with designs, draw heavy designs onto waxed paper with permanent markers.
Put the wax paper on the bulb with the design on the amaryllis side. Use the blow dryer to
gently heat the wax paper to transfer the design onto the bulb. Be sure you don’t get the heat too high or you will melt the wax off your amaryllis bulb. I tried this but liked the look of gold wash and glitter better.
Giving your waxed bulbs as a gift
Waxed amaryllis bulbs make beautiful and no-fuss gifts to bring to holiday parties or as little gifts for the people in your life.
You can accompany the bulb with a thrifted saucer to put it on and a printed label with directions. The directions being that there are no directions. Just set it somewhere pretty and walk away.
Magical waxed amaryllis bulbs: Set it and forget it
Your amaryllis will now grow anywhere you put it. Most directions recommend putting the bulb in sunny window but remember you don’t want the bulb to dry out in a hot spot. The water the bulb took up in the initial soaking must see it through the end of the bloom cycle.
Rotate the bulb periodically so the stem doesn’t lean towards the light too far and topple the bulb.
Put the bulb in a small glass container for support. You may also use a wire coil stuck into the bulb to make it stable, or use a plant stake to secure the flower stalk.
You should see the flat leaves and a flower stalk after several weeks. My waxed bulb started growing a flower stem after one week, the week I decorated the wax. Now, four weeks later the flower stem is tall and nearly ready to bloom.
Once the flower is blooming, put the bulb where you want your display, on a table or mantlepiece surrounded with greenery.
Make waxed bulbs a part of your winter crafting traditions
Once you try this, you’ll add it to your winter crafting repertoire for good.
Waxed amaryllis bulbs make great little gifts that you can feel good giving, like a bit of cheer in a little package. Be sure to make enough to keep some for yourself.
There’s nothing like filling your house with flowers to get that warm and cozy feeling inside even while the wind howls, as its doing while I write this and the snow drifts up outside the patio door.
After you grow your own beautiful waxed amaryllis bulbs, take time to enjoy your homegrown winter flowers with a hot cup of something and a good book until spring returns to the land.