Hippeastrum: Amaryllis

Family: Amaryllidaceae
Common name: Amaryllis, Barbados Lily, Dutch Amaryllis, Fire Lily, Lily of the Palace, Christmas Rose, South African Amaryllis

Hippeastrum is a genus of bulbous lily plants that are native to South America, specifically Brazil and Argentina. The bulbs are about 5-12 cm in diameter and are usually planted in the fall or winter. They produce two to seven long, green, strappy leaves that are 60-90 cm long, growing directly from the bulbs.

In spring, the plant produces long, hollow stems that hold 2-12 flowers at right angles to the stem, or sometimes slightly drooping downwards. Flowers are trumpet-shaped and come in a variety of colors, like white, pink, red, orange, and yellow.

Amaryllis flowers are large, about 13-20 cm diameter with six large petals, three of them in the outer layer, and three in the inner layer. These flowers can last 3-4 weeks and also live 8-10 days as cut flowers. Stamens and style are very prominently visible.

Some species have beautiful stripes or markings on the petals, making them exceptionally attractive. The fruits are small, having three distinct chambers for holding the seeds.

Amaryllis has about 90 species and over 600 hybrids, some of them very popular and expensive in the cut flowers market. Few of the most common species are Hippeastrum puniceum, Hippeastrum striatum, Hippeastrum reginae, Hippeastrum reticulatum, Hippeastrum vittatum, Hippeastrum angustifolium. And some of the common hybrids are Red Lion, Picotee, Minerva, Apple Blossom, Christmas Gift, Monte Carlo and so on.

These are very popular among gardeners because of their large, colorful, uniquely patterned flowers. The name Hippeastrum comes from Greek and means ‘knight’s star’.

Amaryllis can be grown indoors near windows with good sunlight. The bulbs are usually available on sale during late winter so that they can be planted in time to produce flowers in spring. With proper, well-drained soil, watering and fertilization, the plants will produce abundant flowers 4-5 weeks after planting.

After the flowering season, the plants die back in cold weather. Though, in tropical countries, it is common for the plants to live on with green leaves. Amaryllis are very good hedge plants with their long, flowing leaves covering large areas.

And then they flower in spring, your garden will be a riot of colors attracting small birds and bees in plenty. These plants are resistant to most bugs and infections. Although, overwatering or underwatering can cause rotting or drying of the stem. Too much sun can cause the edges of the tender leaves to burn.

In addition to their ornamental uses, some species of Hippeastrum have medicinal properties. The bulbs of the Hippeastrum puniceum species have been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including fever, coughs, and colds.

Propagation is through seeds and bulbs.