Plant care - Amaryllis

Amaryllis: December Houseplant of the Month

The story of Amaryllis

Stylish and sensual Amaryllis (also known as Hippeastrum) is available in many varieties and rich earthy colours. This houseplant’s big feature is its changing appearance. A stately hollow stem emerges from a bulb on which smooth buds develop. Those open into voluminous calyxes with velvety petals in white, salmon, red, pink or even green. The flowers can reach a diameter of 20 cm. This is very spectacular, particularly because you do not expect such a lavish display from such a sleek stem, especially not in the winter months. 

Origin

Amaryllis is a member of the Narcissus family, with more than 70 species. It’s native to the (sub-)tropical regions of Mexico and the Caribbean through to northern Argentina. The first plants probably developed in Brazil. The plant was first cultivated in Europe in around 1800. 

What to look for when buying Amaryllis

  • When buying Amaryllis, look at the colour and the flower shape which will emerge from the bulbs. The larger the bulb, the more (hollow) stems emerge from it, sometimes up to 3-4 stems per pot. Every stem produces 3 or 4 conical flowers.
  • Check that the bulb is well rooted and not too loose in the pot. A green tip must already visible on the bulb when purchasing. 
  • Check that there is no mould on the bulb or the soil - a sign that the plant has been too damp. 
  • The bulb and stems can be affected by ‘red blotch’ (red stripes on the stem) but this does not detract from the lifespan. 

Choice of range

The Amaryllis range is very broad. Alongside main colours such as red, pink and white, new colours are constantly being added, like salmon, lilac, green, orange and bicoloured varieties with stripes or edges. There are varieties with single and double flowers. Bulbs with a wax or felt coating that the consumer doesn’t have to do anything to are very popular. Do stress that it requires patience: it takes a few weeks for a bulb to start growing.

An Amaryllis in a pot develops slightly faster. 

Care tips

  • Amaryllis can tolerate both dark and light positions, as long as it’s reasonably cool.
  • Do not allow the soil to dry out, but do not have standing water either. Bulbs with felt or wax will flower without water, but should not be too warm, otherwise the flowers will dry up.
  • There’s no need to feed, since the nutrients are already in the bulb. 

Thanks to The Flower Council of Holland - http://thejoyofplants.co.uk/

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