plant of the month
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Amaryllis, Barbados lily
These tropical bulb plants produce showy trumpet-shaped blooms
that range from 3 to 8 inches in diameter. There are generally
three to six blooms atop of each stem (bulbs can produce one to
three flower stalks, depending on the size and quality of the
bulbs). Blooms can be single flowered, with 6 “petals”; double
flowered, with 12; or triple flowered, with 18. Some new hybrids
have narrower petals, giving the blooms a spidery/lilylike
Stems are hollow, smooth, light green and range from
about 16 to 30 inches in height. The leaves, which, like the
stems, emerge from the bulbs, are long, straplike and dark
These bulb flowers are
available in both solid colors and bicolors (usually striped or
mottled), in a palette that comprises reds, ranging from pink to
burgundy; red-orange; orange; salmon; and white, as well as new
yellow and yellow-green varieties.
Potted amaryllises can last from 10 to 24 days, depending on the
variety and care. Individual blooms typically last two to five
These plants are typically available in winter and spring
months, but that varies by region and from grower to grower.
They are generally always obtainable in November and December,
but some growers produce these plants from as early as October
through as late as April or May. Check with your favorite
supplier(s) for availability.
IN-STORE AND CONSUMER CARE
Potted amaryllises require
as much bright indirect light as possible during their active
growing period, but they must be protected from direct sunlight.
Too little light can cause stems to weaken. Rotate the pot
occasionally to prevent the stalk(s) from growing toward the
During these plants’ growth and flowering periods, keep the soil
consistently moist. Take care not to wet the bulb when watering.
Amaryllises prefer cool
temperatures (55 F to 70 F) during their growth and flowering
Feed potted amaryllises
with a balanced all-purpose fertilizer every 10 days during
their growth and flowering periods, or apply a
controlled-release fertilizer at the beginning of the growth
The ideal potting medium
is a high-quality, well-draining soil. A mixture of peat moss,
sand and potting soil also can be used.
Amaryllises can be grown hydroponically (in water) by
placing the bulb atop the rim of a water-filled container,
allowing only the base of the bulb and/or the roots to be in
contact with the water.
Remove pollen-bearing anthers as blooms open, and remove blooms
as they fade.
After the flowers fade,
cut off the stalks level with the top of the bulb, and continue
to feed and water the plant every two weeks. Allow the leaves to
dry gradually, then cut them off, and place the potted bulb in a
cool (50 F), dark space for 10 to 15 weeks.
Six to eight weeks before you want it to rebloom, repot the
bulb into fresh soil, in a pot that leaves 2 inches on all sides
between the bulb and the pot’s edge. Place the bulb high in the
pot so that the top one-third to one-half of the bulb is above
the soil. Water well, and place the planted bulb in a cool (60
F), low-light space for about four weeks or until new growth
reaches about 6 inches. Then move the plant to a warmer,
brighter environment; water consistently; and fertilize every 10
Amaryllises are extremely
sensitive to ethylene gas. Make sure those you purchase are
treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during
shipping. In addition, keep them away from sources of ethylene
such as ripening fruit, decaying flowers and foliage, automobile
exhaust, and tobacco smoke because the gas will hasten
development and decrease their lives, as well as cause crepey
and wilting blooms.
A common fungal disease is Stagonospora, which is
sometimes referred to as red blotch, red leaf spot or red fire.
It shows as bright-red patches on any part of the plant, from
roots to flowers. It is most active in cool, damp weather.
Another concern can be amaryllis rust, a virus that affect the
Common pests include mites, thrips and mealybugs.
All parts of these plants can cause minor illness, if ingested,
so keep them out of the reach of children and pets.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
“Hippeastrum” is said to derive from the Greek words
hippos, for horse, and astron, for star, because the
blooms once were considered to resemble a horse’s head,
at a certain stage in their opening, and because of the
star-shaped form of the open flowers.
“Amaryllis” was the name
of a lovelorn shepherdess in Greek mythology who pierced
her own heart to produce a new flower from her blood, to
attract the attention of a flower- and plant-loving
shepherd she desired.
The genus Hippeastrum is a member of the Amaryllidaceae
family. Close relatives include Clivia, Eucharis,
Narcissus and Nerine.
HOME SWEET HOME
Amaryllises are native to the Caribbean region and to
tropical and subtropical South America (Peru, Brazil,
Bolivia, Chile and Argentina).
Some information provided
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® ,
Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, The, by Barbara Pleasant
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Houseplant Encyclopedia, The, by Ingrid Jantra and Ursula Kruger
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners, by William T.