Botanical name: Hippeastrum
Type of bulb: true bulb
A certain amount of confusion exists surrounding “Hippeastrum”, the plant's scientific name, and “Amaryllis”, its common name. The Hippeastrum, a bulbous plant that originated in South Africa, has 4 to 6 large flowers on a hollow stem. Amaryllis belladonna is another bulbous plant from South Africa, but this plant has 6 to 12 smaller flowers on a solid flower stem. For reasons which are difficult to fathom but certainly confusing, the Hippeastrum is known almost the world-over as “Amaryllis”. The genus, Hippeastrum is composed of several species, while Amaryllis belladonna is the only species in the genus, Amaryllis. The numerous Hippeastrum cultivars being grown were developed from hybridizations involving several species.
The nice thing about forcing Amaryllis bulbs into flower inside the home is that it is so simple to do. What's more, once the bulbs have flowered, they can be stored and brought into flower again.
Amaryllis bulbs must be commercially cultivated for three to five years before they can be marketed, the length of cultivation depending on several factors such as the cultivar and the growing methods. Two countries producing significant numbers of amaryllis bulbs are the Netherlands and South Africa. The bulb size and the cultivar are factors determining the number of flower stems that will develop. Also, large bulbs produce more flowers to a stem. Two to five flowers to a stem is common, the stem usually measuring 16-24 inches. The flowers of “ordinary” varieties measure 10 inches in diameter, while the “miniature” varieties display flowers measuring 5 inches across. Since the flowers do not bloom simultaneously, the total flowering period lasts a fairly long time. The flowers are very similar to those of lilies, both of these genera being distantly related to one another. The bigger the bulb is, the more chance that it will produce two flower stems with several flowers to a stem. A second flower stem always develops later than the first one; therefore it will bloom later than the first. Prices for these bulbs depend on the bulb size, the cultivar and the country in which they were produced. The long, narrow, dark green leaves contrast beautifully with the sturdy, thick, light green flower stems. The bulbs should already have fairly long fleshy roots when purchased. When potting or planting, care must be taken to avoid damaging them. Planting in the spring is preferable because the bulbs will flower so rapidly.
Temperature: bulbs in pots grow best at normal room temperature 68°F and when placed in a lighted location. Water should be provided sparingly at first, and then more and more generously as the flower stems develop.
Large flowering cultivars
- 'Apple Blossom': deep pink on a white background
- 'Hercules': magenta
- 'Liberty': deep red
- 'Ludwig Dazzler': white
- 'Minerva': red and white striped
- 'Mont Blanc': pure white
- 'Orange Sovereign': orange
- 'Picotee': pure white with red edges
- 'Piquant': orange with a white stripe
- 'Red Lion': scarlet red
- 'Rilona': salmon pink
- 'White Christmas': pure white
Double flowering cultivars
- 'Double Record': salmon and white
- 'Jewel': white
- 'Lady Jane': orange
- 'Red Peacock': red with a white line
- 'Bianca' (Green Goddess): white
- 'Calimero': red
- 'Pamela': red
- 'Scarlet Baby': dark red
- 'Voodoo' (Naughty Lady): red and white striped
These cultivars are only a few of the many that are available but provide a good idea of the wide variety of colors on the market.