Amaryllis – Hippeastrum hybrids

Amaryllis bulbs originate from the tropical areas of South America. Often given as Christmas gifts, they are very popular plants and their large flowers are striking and very beautiful.

The flowers, which come in various shades of pink, red, salmon and white, often appear before the leaves. Two or four trumpet-shaped blooms are carried on each stem. The flowers are large — they can be up to 15cm (6in) in diameter. Some varieties have sweetly fragrant blooms. White blooms are the most fragrant.

Large bulbs may produce five flowers to a bulb, but this is rare.

The leaves are strap-shaped and fleshy. Dark green in colour, they may be 30-50cm (1-2ft) long, appearing after the flowers. The plants need plenty of sun, and after flowering they need regular feeding. This will also give the bulb energy for next year’s flowers.

An amaryllis needs plenty of room to accommodate its leaves and the height of the stems when flowering. Stems can reach a height of up to 60cm (2ft). The plant grows fast in average room temperatures. If temperatures are too high the flowers will fade rapidly. If kept at 17°C (64°F) they should last at least 3 weeks.Amaryllis - Hippeastrum hybrids

Display ideas

A round brass plant holder, set with several bulbs of different flower colours, will make a cheering sight in winter. The plant mixes well with other green foliage plants at its base in a combined grouping.

Through The Year

October—April

Plant bulbs in a rich potting mixture in a pot with a drainage hole. Choose a pot that gives just 2.5cm (1 in) of soil around the bulb. A few bits of broken clay shards placed in the base of the pot will also ensure good drainage. Cover half the bulb with the potting mixture. Press the compost around the bulb to make sure it is firm.

Keep the bulb in a warm spot in bright light where it has a temperature of 21°-23°C (70°— 73°F). Water sparingly until the flower stalk appears. Increase watering when the first shoots appear.

After flowering cut away the flower stalk and feed with liquid fertilizer every week.

May—September

Reduce both watering and feeding around August. The leaves will die down and the bulb should be stored in a cool dark place in the pot. A temperature of 16°-17°C (61°-64°F) is required.

In January you begin the planting cycle again.

Propagation

It is easy to propagate’ new plants from the bulblets that grow from’ the sides of the mother bulb.

Remove them carefully and plant them in a rich bulb potting mixture. Look after them as you would the parent plant. Bear in mind that it will be a few years before you have a bulb large enough to flower.

Plant Problems

Twisting, malformed leaves with red-streaking is caused by bulb-scale mites.

Treatment: It is very difficult to get rid of this pest and the plant is usually best discarded.

Spotted leaves and dried out petals indicate a fungus attack.

Treatment: Cut off the affected parts and treat with fungicide. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions on the pack.

PLANT CARE

You may prefer to buy bulbs each year, but if you feed the bulb, give it sunlight and provide with a cool dry place for its dormant period, you will be able to grow it on year after year. Cut off old flower stalks so that growth will be concentrated on next year’s bulb.

Potting: See Through The Year.

Keep potting mixture of newly planted bulbs just moist. When shoots are visible water well but let top of mixture dry out between waterings. Water generously during growing and flowering period. Reduce in late summer and stop during storage.

Feeding: Feed frequently during the growing period.

GROWING CONDITIONS

  • Light: During the growing period it needs lots of bright light, fresh air and high humidity. Ideally, stand it outside in a sunny spot for the summer.
  • Temperature: When in bloom temperatures should not exceed 17°C (64°F) or flowers fade quickly. In winter, 10°C (50°F).

When to buy

  • Usually for sale as bulbs from winter until spring, when they might be sold in bud.
  • If buying a bulb, choose one that is fat and fleshy with papery skin and perhaps strong roots. If buying a plant choose one with buds.
  • A robust bulb, if cared for properly during its dormant period, will last for years. Many people prefer to buy fresh bulbs each year.

The true hippeastrum is known as the Night Star Lily, but the species we grow in our greenhouses are mostly members of the amaryllis order. They bloom earlier than the Belladonna Lily, being in bloom from March until mid-summer when planted outdoors, and correspondingly earlier when indoors where they are happiest and should be given much the same treatment as described for the Amaryllis. The most hardy species, H. bifidum, a native of S. America, will bloom outside in a sheltered position in the West Country in April and if being grown indoors will come into bloom early in the new year, if taken to a warm room or greenhouse in early December. It bears most exciting tubular flowers of vivid orange. Other species of beauty are:

  • Hippeastrum aulicum which comes into bloom in a slightly heated house early in the new year, bearing flowers of the most vivid scarlet.
  • H. .Rutilum, which bears masses of small orange trumpets in a cold greenhouse in spring, but is not suitable for outdoor cultivation.

 

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