The names Hippeastrum and Amaryllis may be interchangeable but we’re talking about the same bulb. They’re members of the Amaryllidaceae family so you’re probably more correct if you do refer to them as Amaryllis flowers. And as blooms go, these are superb.
The Hippeastrum grows from a bulb that spears through the air to a height of more than 1/2 metre. As it does, the bud begins unfurling along the way erupting once it reaches its peak and then producing three magnificent flowers with equi-distant spacing. A birds-eye view will highlight the “peace-symbol” that it forms.
I was given a few pots of amaryllis bulbs years ago by a lady who found out that I had a weakness for them. I had never grown them before, let alone knew how to care for them, but had admired them from the sidelines hoping to one day get the opportunity. Well here it was.
In the beginning every mistake that could possibly be made with these bulbs I made. They were over-watered in their dormant period, under-watered in their flowering season and buried below the surface of the soil – in order to ignorantly commit the biggest doozy of them all. Yet, these bulbs persevered for a few seasons before finally calling it a day two years ago.
Since then, I’ve been researching how to grow these better and take more care of these delicious bulbs. It seems that the advice the donor lady gave to me was right. Lo and behold, it pays to listen.
Her mantra concerning the hippeastrum was this;
- Leave the top third of the bulb above the soil. Unlike most other bulb flowers the amaryllis does not like growing beneath the surface and will rot and die if you plant it that way.
- Plant it in a rich, moist soil. Hippeastrums require a rich nutrient base to flower so beautifully so a good soil to start with is imperative followed by regular feedings of compost tea and a good bonemeal fertiliser.
- Water it regularly during the flowering season and hotter months but hold off once the foliage has browned and fallen off.
- Don’t move it for the next 3 years. The Amaryllis is not a big fan of change and much prefers to get comfortable in its surroundings so resist the temptation to dig it up every year and dry the bulb out – they don’t work that way.
The Hippeastrum is best grown in a container for a few good reasons. First, you have the flexibility of location changes when they’re in pots than you would have if they were stuck in the ground. Second, this flexibility means you can remove the plant from the public eye once its blooms are spent and allow it to recuperate without messing up your garden. Finally, grown in a container allows you to bring these bulbs indoors and take care of them during the cooler months.
You can propagate amaryllis via bulb division separating the pups once the flowers and foliage have all died back. These can be planted in separate pots using the same care instructions as listed above.