Belladonna Lily – Amaryllis

This is the member of the Amaryllis family known as the Belladonna Lily, or should we say that it is the Belladonna Lily that is known as the Amaryllis, for the other members of the Amaryllis family are now known as Hippeastrums. The Belladonna has possibly retained its old classification on account of it being just about sufficiently hardy to bloom outdoors in a sheltered corner, in full sun and protected from cold winds, but it is in a cold greenhouse, grown in pots that it blooms so well and to perfection with the minimum of attention. The best description I have seen given to these flowers was in an article in House and Garden when the writer described them as resembling the trumpets of old-fashioned gramophones.

More commonly called the Belladonna Lily and a plant which should be far more widely grown. It is one of those valuable bulbous plants which will bloom in a partly sheltered position during early autumn when there seems to be fewer flowers in bloom than at any other time of the year. In more exposed areas they may not be perfectly hardy and should either be covered with peat or bracken during early November or lifted, cleaned and stored until replanted in early May.

In the West Country and along the mid-south coast, the bulbs may be planted 6 in. deep and left undisturbed for years where they will produce their lovely pink lily-like flowers on a leafless stem from late August until October. They like shelter rather than shade, the shelter of wattle hurdles or a sparsely planted shrubbery. Like so many bulbous plants they like a cool, moist root system, but some sunshine on their flowers.

Belladonna Lily - Amaryllis

Dig plenty of humus into the soil and dig deeply as the bulbs need a 6-in. Covering of soil over them. They should be planted during early May, planting in clumps and spacing the bulbs 8 in. apart. The flowers reach a height of just over 3 ft. and where shelter cannot be given, some staking will be necessary for the stems are easily broken. Where the plant grows well, the blooms may be marketed in local florists where they find a ready sale. As the blooms do not transport well, local trade only should be catered for, but one may possibly think the blooms would be worth the money in one’s own home or in the garden, where their delicate fragrance may be enjoyed during a still autumn day.

This is also a lovely plant for a cool greenhouse, the bulbs being planted three to a 48-size pot in November, so that they may bloom to perfection during early summer. They enjoy a rich compost and especially a little well-rotted manure, mixing well with the loamy soil. When planting the bulbs, either in the open ground or in pots, they should be surrounded with sand or peat before filling in the soil round them.

The secret of success with this plant is correct ripening of the bulbs each year, regular feeding with liquid manure and planting in a rich compost, made extremely firm. Choose a large pot and over the crocks place a layer of rotted turf loam. Then fill up the pot with a mixture of loam, well-rotted manure and some coarse sand, then plant the bulb as you would a hyacinth, with the nose above the level of the compost. Some allow two-thirds of the bulb above soil level. Make the compost thoroughly firm by constant pressing, using a compost of friable nature. The time to do this is November. The pots may be stood in a cold frame or in a sheltered corner until Christmas when they are taken indoors or into a greenhouse with gentle heat or even into a cold greenhouse. In a consistent temperature of 50-52 F the flower spike will be observed in February and the bulbs will come into bloom any time from mid-March until mid-summer, depending upon temperature. They should never be allowed to suffer from lack of moisture and to retain the stamina of the bulb over the year, fortnightly feeding with dilute liquid manure water and a yearly top dressing with a mixture of peat and loam will be all that is necessary.

The drying off of the plant after flowering will require some attention for upon this depends the vigour of the plant the following season. Being natives of South Africa, where they receive dry, sunny conditions for their ripening, as near to these conditions as possible should be given. For several weeks after flowering the plant will continue to grow and whilst doing so, watering and feeding should continue in the usual way until plant growth is seen to be dying down. Watering is then gradually reduced until the leaves are dead. The pots should then be placed on their sides in a position of full sun and all water withheld until such time as it is required to bring on the bulbs again in the new year. The Belladonna Lily does not like being disturbed and repotting should not be done until the fourth year when the bulb, if correctly fed and ripened will be seen to have formed a number of offsets. These are carefully detached and grown on in boxes of peat, rotted manure, coarse sand and loam, planting them with their noses above soil level.

When planting in the open, choose a warm, sheltered corner and plant in May into a well-prepared soil containing a sprinkling of bone meal and allow at least six inches of soil over the top of the bulbs. They will bloom outside during early autumn.

Amaryllis belladonna bears rose-pink flowers, but a more striking form, A. belladonna rubra major, bears rich crimson blooms, whilst A. belladonna blanda bears white flowers which turn to pale pink with age.

SPECIES

  • Amaryllis Belladonna. A native of South Africa but a plant which may be grown throughout Britain. Produces in summer, green strap-like leaves from which emerge in early autumn nodding bells produced in clusters on the stems.
  • An improved form A. Purpurea Major, produces very large blooms of a rich rose-pink colour.
  • A. Parkeri. A hybrid and a delightful plant for a cold frame or under a wall with a southerly aspect where the flowering spikes will produce up to a dozen blooms of an exquisite rose colour, shaded buff at the base.

Summary

Belladonna Lily, will grow in a sheltered place outdoors, in tubs, or in pots in the cool greenhouse. The bulbs are planted 4 in. deep in August or early September, in well-drained, sandy soil and the flower-stems, 15 to 18 in. high and carrying 6 or more funnel-shaped, scented, rose flowers, will appear a few weeks after planting. Once established, the bulbs flower very freely, the strap-shaped leaves appearing in early spring.

 

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