The Horror that is Wax Encased Bulbs

5 years ago

My local Lowe's in Tampa this year carried the wax bulbs that I had previously heard and saw on the internet last season (on this forum too). Lowe's had them about a month ago, but I didn't bother as they were a little pricey (can't remember the exact dollar amount; think it was somewhere around $14). Anyways, some of the bulbs have bloomed and faded, and they were put on clearance for $3, so I took a shot and bought two this afternoon to see what the fuss was about. Plus, most of the bulbs had two scapes and the second one has yet to bloom. I was highly suspicious of the "no-water" business in regards to the long term outcome, and my thoughts were confirmed when I took off the wax encasing.

The bulbs were a good size and came in a plastic cylinder:

Here's the front view of the container:

The bulb itself shrunk quite a lot compared to the wax encasing, which is to be expected since the bulb has no access to water or nutrients. Pressing on the wax showed that there were clearly airspace pockets. I expected the bulbs to shrink after one of the scapes bloomed, but this felt a little pathologic.

Next, using a scalpel blade (any sharp instrument will do), I did a little wax-ectomy and started taking off large chunks of the encasing. I expected some bruising, but not to the level of mold growing on both bulbs:

The roots, being confined to the wax, didn't look particularly great as well. Keep in mind that these bulbs have been sitting around for 4 weeks now. Amaryllis planted in soil would develop quite a rigorous root system in such time.

By this point I was pretty certain that the no-watering malarkey didn't float and that, left alone, these bulbs would rot in their wax coffins. The sealed-off, dark environment of the wax casing is perfect for fungal growth. These bulbs would be one-offs: look like a pretty ornament for the holidays, then be immediately thrown out. It would be sad to see a bulb that got big enough to put forth two or more scapes end up in the trash.

So, I removed all the wax carefully as well as the metal base that poked into the basal plates of the two bulbs. I stripped the layers that were soft and mushy with the rotting mold until I saw a relatively clean layer. I cut off the spent scape, as I didn't want the bulb to put energy into seeds. The bulb was then wiped down with an alcohol prep pad, and potted in a mixture of generic potting soil, perlite, and some compost:

I'll keep this thread updated as the progress continues. Meanwhile, I looked up the people that make these wax bulbs (http://www.nowaterflowers.com), since the company on the container (Battlefield Farms in Virgina) didn't look like they grew bulbs. Interestingly enough, nowaterflowers doesn't show too many pictures of the flowers in full bloom, but rather emphasize the variety's of bulb encasing available. A lot of the pictures with flowers is taken before the flowers fully open. Coincidence? I think not. The flowers that were blooming at my Local Lowe's didn't look all that fantastic. Hippeastrum blooms are head-turners. These flowers looked dehydrated and anemic (they didn't have that punch of a true red that the container portrayed). The blooms didn't seem to didn't last long either.

In short, the wax encasing is certainly eye-catching and turn the bulb in to an ornament around this time of the Holidays. But if you're looking to keep these bulbs after they bloom (assuming they don't rot all the way through) or just wanted good blooms, I say look elsewhere. All plants need water and nutrients. To deny them that at the cost of some novelty marketing scheme is just cruel.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nowaterflowers website

Comments (64)

  • tamily12

    RELAX! As JBUG82 pointed out, Jackson Perkins has waxed amaryllis bulbs and they are phenomenal! For any doubter, check out the Jackson Perkins video of the start to finish stages of these spectacular blooms...And yes, my friends and I, all bulb lovers, are salvaging the bulbs for future growth, but the Jackson Perkins waxed bulbs are well done with all the required nutrients for an initial bloom over Christmas. So please, RELAX!

  • Photo Synthesis

    Last winter, I remember seeing glass vases with an amaryllis bulb shoved into it and waxed poured over it, sealing it in. Not only that, but the prices for them were jacked way up. I couldn't help but think of how they were all essentially doomed, unless someone that knew how to properly care for them came along and rescued them from their fate. I don't understand why people would treat these bulbs as disposable, lasting no more than a single season. Sure they'll have enough nutrients to bloom once. But to intentionally suffocate them in wax for no apparent reason? All these big corporate nurseries do is sit around and brainstorm yet another money making scheme for yielding maximum profits from their potential customers that don't know any better. They don't want you growing these wonderful plants year after year. What profit is there in that? When they can sell you "disposable" bulbs year after year after year instead? The only way I would ever spend $$ on these is if it were to rescue them off of a clearance rack, and the seller made absolutely no profit off of them whatsoever. Otherwise, we're only contributing to and enabling this kind of behavior from these greedy companies.

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  • rosinagutierrez

    I think that.....To care for a plant for more than 2 years, have it bloom once and then throw it away, an hippiestrum that could live, bloom and reproduce for 30 years or more ....it is a waste of energy and resources, and so is getting angry. Anthropocentrism, bioethics, consumerism, throw away society....many topics to think about.

  • Paul

    Thanks in large part to the wonderful responses here, our "rescued and freed" Lowes Christmas 99¢ Amaryllis bulbs are not only survivors but going gangbusters! Here's a few two months after de-waxing... they're reaching for the skylight and also basking under grow-light rays on cloudy days.

    Looking forward to joining some other "rescue" plants in one of our islands (fenced in to protect from critter damage)!

  • dondeldux

    Great job Paul!! Your bulbs are blooming beautifully and I'm sure they will reward you for years to come for your thoughtful rescue. Your garden area is lovely and everything looks very happy!!


  • Fred Biasella

    Hi Rosina,

    I couldn't agree with you more. We live in such a horrible throw away society and we need to realize that resources are FINITE.


  • Fred Biasella

    Hi Paul,

    You are to be commended for rescuing these poor unfortunate bulbs that have been so mistreated beyond their control. There should be more conscientious people like you. Maybe there's hope.

    Warm Regards,


  • Marco Musella

    Hello, by following your advice I did the same to a waxed amaryllis bulb I received as a gift, however, mine had no roots at all underneath! It was just a dark flat surface.

    I am no expert in gardening, might this mean death for the bulb?

    After a pair of days in the pot the plant doesn't seem to be doing that great judging by the color :(

  • kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

    Give it a little time. Sounds like a very dry basal plate. If you have any rooting hormone, sprinkle a bit on the basal plate. I even put some in the soil where the bulb sits in drastic situations. Don't overwater...you may be surprised.

  • Soňa Čermáková

    Hello. I have bought one after out of curiosity myself. I did bloom (2flowers) also rewarded me with seeds now. All the time I am just thinking how to free it since it looks like a big strong bulb. I will use your advice Thanks a lot

  • kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

    Warm water and peel away the wax. Apply rooting hormone to the basal plate to encourage roots.

  • zachplantguy

    Sorry "Holding them for ransom"

  • nancycanadajordan42

    I too agree, the rough hull of the bulb is part of the beauty of the flower. Have any of you guys tried the the (yellow ) Lemon Lime and or the Papilio Amaryllis bulbs yet , it my next adventure... in the amaryllis rabbit hole. lol

  • nancycanadajordan42

    I say boycotting is the way to go with these villains..
    lol. Am, I being too extreme... fellow gardeners... I tend to be a
    tad radical when it comes to plants.... people not so much.....

  • zachplantguy

    Boycotting is not to o extreme. Spread the word about these poor tortured entities!!! Heck if I could get away with it is have their factories shut down and the perpetrators arrested for years! The more they were aware of plant sentience the longer there sentence would be!!!

  • Fred Biasella

    Nancy and Zach,

    I agree with you 100%!!!!!! We speak for the plants that have no voice!!!!


  • Root Brain

    The Agony of the Amaryllis

    The bulb sits rotten, lays mutilated in the trash…

    it’s once green and vibrant tissues festering and blackened, covered in an abhorrent mold. The vestiges of a wasted life…

    this living being was once just that, alive…

    one day a human came and ripped it from its family, it was likely bore by a butchered mother… who in her final throes of death…

    as a vain attempt to keep at least some part of itself alive… a mother who has long since been discarded and left to rot and die. Alone and cold in a waste filled bin.

    That human cared not for his fellow life, rather the profit he could make off of them.

    And so took that forsaken bulb, and without any mercy or grace ripped rooted nerves from its head. Unaware or lied to was he, or perhaps he just cared not…

    taking a serrated blade he slashed into the the bulbs wrinkled brow. As it had grown old and wise, only to receive this fate…

    feeling no visceral reaction as the blood plasma like sap coated his unfeeling hands… what if this were an animal’s head?... why would the color red be abhorred so? Why does the color of the lifesblood matter it it is being drained from a living feeling being…?

    And so he takes the poor plants head and dips it from calloused brow to tender neck, into the scalding wax. Skin blisters and veins burst. The agony raping the bulb, but the man is unaware. For deafened is he by his ears and blinded by his eyes. His heart smothered by greed. Its screams to shrill for his hardened ears. So plugged by the lies of humanity…

    like an ornament of nature’s death it sits, a metal spike stabbed through its brain.

    The humans come and pay, pay the murderers for these vibrant red death ornaments. Huge amounts of money for a creature that is in its final agony…

    the plant tries with waning strength to bloom, for in delusional agony what else can it do. What can it do as it slowly suffocated under a coating of our greed… just like the earth itself, being smothered under artificial wastes. Crying out, rotting in its own fluids.

    The botched flower wracked and warped.

    The consumer disappointed, thinks not of the pain, but of lost profits, as much at fault as the mutilators. Then it throws the dying creature in the trash… and goes to buy another…

  • jstropic (10a)

    That is so so sad!!

  • PRO
    Enliven Design Group

    I purchased one of these tonight and was suspicious. Now I wish I hadn't. I think I'll follow your lead and hope for a positive outcome. Is there a ratio of potting soil, perlite and compost that you have used?

  • JL (Zone 6B MA)

    Thanks for this post although its several years old. It came up in a google search I did while research waxed amaryllis bulbs. I was wondering why they didn't need to be watered and how they could survive past one season and now i know! Although I think the people selling them present them at the same level as cut flowers (once they are bloomed and done you throw them away) - I agree why would we treat these beautiful bulbs with such cruelty?! I won't be buying the waxed variety.....

  • barnett_135

    Received a beautiful waxy bulb for my birthday on 12/1/17. Please take these out of the plastic container (too humid). Mine came with a wire ring so it can sit perfectly straight. Planning to purchase for family members. I love mine!!! After they bloom I think it should be potted if you intend to keep. These are meant as care-free holiday decor. Can't wait for it to be in full bloom .

  • barnett_135


  • dondeldux

    It's lovely, but make sure to remove the wax as soon at it's through blooming and plant it in soil. It should reward you another year with more lovely blooms!

  • Pavel

    Cut the stem with the flower - put it in the vase - it will bloom same time.

    The bulb will keeps more energy for regeneration. Of course clean the wax from bulb and grow in substrate. Good luck.

  • Lois Jenken

    I bought one last year and loved it

    planted it and it came back beautiful

  • Vicki D

    I understand why competent gardeners are passionate about this. However, those of us with brown thumbs may see it differently. My friend, who has heard me complain about my difficulty growing plants, bought me one as a gift. It is beautiful! I just assumed it was a one and done deal, as marketed, and would bite the dust when it finished blooming, as so many of my plants have done. After reading this, I may *attempt* to salvage it for another year (after it’s done this year), but I don’t have high hopes. In the meantime, this non-gardener is able to enjoy a gorgeous living flower on her dining room table.

  • JL (Zone 6B MA)

    I hear you Vicki - I have a brown thumb too! Pretty much killed any houseplants I’ve had over the last 20 years some quicker than others. But this past year I’ve realized if you learn what the right conditions are for your plant , you can grow things! I originally came to this site in my search for the wax encased bulbs and what the deal was with them and am now completely hooked on trying to grow them past a single season!

    Happy growing!

  • JL (Zone 6B MA)

    Wow - if you thought the wax encased bulbs are bad - see what I found in my grocery store here today! They’ve probably had them for a while but I’ve only just started recognizing amaryllis blooms everywhere I go! In my opinion this seems even worse as it is a waste of the bulb as well as the whole piece will need to be thrown once the bulb is done blooming so it’s a double waste!

    Seriously it’s also such a sloppy job - it’s like my kids hot-glued this together in an art project!

  • Valerie Narunsky

    Thank you so much for this post! I would have thrown out my waxed bulb, but now after just a week potted, my amaryllis is showing signs of life and it looks like a flower reward!

    It had no roots, and was showing no signs of life until I put it in this pot.

  • dondeldux

    Congratulations, you are being rewarded!! I'm sure your bulb is breathing a sign of relief!!! Are there drainage holed in your "paint can" ??

    Please post a picture of the happy flower when she blooms!!


  • The WizDad

    Attempted a rescue of my wifes Xmas bulb... After months in that wax though I the bulb was half its original size. I'll post an update in a few weeks.

  • zachplantguy

    These bulbs are the heads of The amaryllis. What these companies did is sadistic greedy and cruel. (This bulb was starting to die... I do not usually kill plants unless they are suffering)... I actually circled the brain of the plant where all of the structures that morally should be called plant nerves are located...

  • zachplantguy

    Do you see what I’m saying? Look at the similarities!!! A plant is an upside down animal equivalent!!!

  • zachplantguy

    Here a diagram

    Colored areas are nervous systems...

  • berkeleysgr8

    Thank goodness injured bulbs are able to regenerate better than injured human brains! Do you know that sliced up bulb can continue to grow too? As long as the base of the bulb (basal plate) is intact, new bulblets can be formed! -Tina

  • zachplantguy

    Yes but the original still dies like an animal would. It’s just the dying entity can clone itself...

  • zachplantguy

    And who knows if the clones are the same individual... and even if they were most people just throw them in the trash anyway... It’s horrible and sad...

  • zachplantguy

    You see like a human head is not entirely brain, neither is the bulb... the basal plate is the brain... you could say the roots are nerves with “mouths” and the top of the bulb is the neck... the internal bud connected to the basal plate is like the brainstem... imagine a human who’s body can fall off yet the head stays alive and grows a new body yet retains the Same consciousness. It’s all the same just arranged differently... you can survive for a while with damage to your head and even brain as long as the brain stem or core is not damaged... you just won't function properly... same as the bulb... the “scales” of the bulb are like belly fat... or layers of skin. We don’t have that on our head because it’s on our belly due to the fact that our bodies never detach....

  • Jenna Kuhar

    I work in the horticulture industry. These are meant to buy, grow for 4-5 weeks and throw away. I think it's wonderful to save them and try and grow them for another year, however I don't think it's cruel to do as they were meant for, gifting and tossing once spent. The same goes for Christmas poinsettias. Those in the horiculture industry need sales, otherwise the industry would die. I'll be buying a few of these this year! I may just try and salvage them as well, but it won't steer me away from buying them next year also. I'm supporting my industry!

  • Amy Gibson

    I think the moralizing here is hilarious. For a few bucks, I got tons of gorgeous blooms, xmas 2018.

  • Photo Synthesis

    While there are worst things to be throwing away, at least these are biodegradable. Although, I do object to the pointless use of glitter. This stuff is horrible for the environment, because it doesn't break down. Every year, more and more cheap "disposable" holiday decorations get thrown away, and most of them are covered in this horrible stuff. The last thing we need is more of it. These plants are beautiful in their own right.

    I know this is slightly off topic, but back during the holidays, I picked up a toy catalog on my way into Wal-Mart, and one thing immediately stood out to me, everything in there was made of plastic. Every single page, every single toy... plastic, plastic, and more plastic. That's not including the materials used to package these toys. Cheap toys that kids will quickly get bored with, more sooner than later.

    I hate bringing it up, but once you've watched the many documentaries about this plastic garbage, it's hard to turn a blind eye to it. It makes me sick that this is the kind of society that we live in nowadays. So when I see it pointlessly integrated into the plants we buy, I just can't stand it.

    Every holiday is just another excuse to manufacture even more of it, just so we can throw it all away. Ironic how none of it is made to last, yet it never goes away. I went to the store the day after christmas, and all of those decorations were moved to the clearance isle, and all of the cheap valentine's crap took its place without skipping a beat.

    Despite already owning several amaryllis plants, I went and bought four more varieties this season. I bought them without hesitation because they had minimalistic packaging. If they were dipped in wax and/or coated in glitter, then I would've avoided them like the plague. I don't need cheap pointless gimmicks to entice me into buying these beautiful plants, and I refuse to contribute to it.

  • Amy Gibson

    Agree. You can now buy glitter made of plants from https://glitterevolution.com/ and several other places. There is no excuse for buying glitter made of plastic anymore. Look it up, there are many sources out there if you use it in painting or crafts.

  • HU-397079030

    Well-mine looked like this-not too bad.

  • Photo Synthesis

    Yeah, they definitely have the energy to bloom, but the bulb itself will get sacrificed in the process. It will continue to shrink until not much, if anything, is left of it, and the plant won't be able to recover without the leaves and roots it needs to produce and store energy and nutrients.

    When I bought this amaryllis, it was on clearance, and I didn't even plant it. I placed it on top of a empty pot of soil and left it. My intention was to plant it later on, but by then, it grew roots and anchored itself down into the pot of soil. Not only that, but it bloomed for me as the bulb grew larger than ever. The myth that they prefer being rootbound just isn't true. A larger pot will grow a larger plant.

    I repotted it into this pot and two more bulbs started growing off of each side. The four new bulbs that I bought over the holidays, I've kept in my garage so that they remain dormant until spring arrives. I quite look forward to seeing them when they bloom. Just plant them in a large pot and stick them in direct sun and they practically take care of themselves.

  • dondeldux

    Well, you've got yourself a beautiful pink there that certainly wants to live. I don't think I recognize it though but it's a beauty!

  • Brian Sakamoto (10a, CA, USA)

    Photo Synthesis, nice demonstration of what a box-store bulb can turn into after some TLC! I use the same self-watering planters from Walmart, the roots love the air-grid at the bottom.

  • Erica Bass

    A friend of mine gave me her waxed bulb this past Holiday season (November 2019), she had it in a dark space in her home, and she saw me admiring it. I took it home(I believe I have a green thumb), placed it in a bright spot next to my windows, and waited anxiously for it to bloom, and ended up waiting 2months for it to bloom, and it never did. I started to realize if it was going to bloom, it would have already done so, wondered if it being in the dark space initially at my friend's house had ruined the chances of it growing. I was about to throw it away but decided to google it first just in case, to see if anyone else had a similar experience. Came across this post and I'm so glad I did. I easily cut off the wax, stuck the bulb in a glass with water in it, and it's grown about 4 inches in just under 2 weeks. I'll post photos of the before and after once it sprouts more.

  • jstropic (10a)

    Congratulations!! You know, of course, that it needs friends, right? :)

  • gemerm

    I bought an amaryllis bulb in wax this past Christmas for a family member who was in the nursing home. She was very ill and stayed in bed all of the time. The Amaryllis bloomed beautifully and was a total delight for her to watch grow and bloom. Since it requires no care it was perfect for a nursing home. It put up several stalks that all bloomed starting before Christmas and into late February. She died this morning and I have no bad feelings about the end result for the bulb. It brought her such joy.

  • jstropic (10a)

    So very sorry for your loss and so glad the bulb brought her joy. That was such a thoughtful thing you did for her.

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