Seeds and bulbs: Enter Amaryllis

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The National Garden Bureau has deemed 2023 the Year of the Amaryllis.

The Amaryllis you decorate your home with during the winter holidays is a Hippeastrum. A member of the genus Amaryllidaceae, Hippeastrum bulbs are native to Central and South America and include 90 species and over 600 cultivars.

In contrast, Amaryllis is a bulb native to South Africa with only one species, Amaryllis belladona, also known as “Naked Ladies” because of their pink flowers on stems without leaves.

For NGB’s “Year of the Amaryllis” program, they will focus on the Hippeastrum plants commonly referred to as Amaryllis.

Wintertime Bulbs

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) offered in late autumn through winter are used as forced bulbs to decorate and beautify the inside of homes during winter. These easy-to-grow bulbs are being propagated in many parts of the world.

Garden centers, websites and garden catalogs often share where their bulbs were grown, whether in the Northern Hemisphere, like Holland, or in the Southern Hemisphere, like South Africa. Bulbs from South Africa available in autumn normally take three to five weeks to bloom, while the ones from Holland normally take four to eight weeks to bloom. This information about bloom times may help you make appropriate choices when deciding which bulbs to purchase.

Which Amaryllis to Choose

Amaryllis is offered in assorted sizes, measured in centimeters in circumference (around the bulb). Larger bulb sizes normally produce more flower stalks or more flowers per stem. The heavier the bulb, the more expensive it is.

Speaking of choices, Amaryllis come in a wide variety of colors and flower formations thanks to the hybridizers who are continuing to create more forms and colors.

Single Flower Amaryllis

These are normally large flowers with six petals per flower; multiple stems and multiple blooms per stem; and often one stem emerges at a time, giving a long bloom season, typically a month or more.

Some varieties to look for include:

Barbados – thick red petals with a bold white starburst.

Gervase – variable coloration from flower to flower of white with pale pink, dark pink, red striped and feathering.

Picotee – elegant crisp white flowers with just a hint of a red edge around each petal.

Red Lion – large, bright red flowers perfect for brightening up any room.

Rilona – large peachy, apricot-salmon flowers, which are darker in the center.

Double Flower Amaryllis

These are large flowers with additional petals found within the outside six petals. Some petals curve into the center of the flower making it look more rose-like.

Some varieties to look for include:

Dancing Queen – fully double red and white candy-striped flower with dark green leaves.

Marilyn – a floriferous flower with lots of layers of pure white petals and a yellowish-green heart.

Planting Your Amaryllis Bulb

Use a good potting mix that includes bark to help with drainage. Place your bulb in the container with the top third of the bulb above the soil.

Water once; do not water again until there is a sign of some growth, and then water only sparingly.

Amaryllis needs lots of light. Select a location with as much light as possible and add grow lights if possible. If not using grow lights, place your container where there is the most amount of natural light after sundown. This will keep it from stretching to reach for more light.

Once the flower stalk begins to form buds, water as needed. (Hint: Lift the pot once potted but before the first time you water. This will give you a feel for its weight without water. The top of the soil may feel dry but the weight of moist soil deeper in the pot, which makes it heavier, will help you know when the bulb needs to be watered).

Once the flower has finished blooming, cut off the spent flower, leaving its green stem, which acts as another leaf.

Many good garden centers, catalogs and websites offer Amaryllis already in a container, ready to give as a gift. Some even have the bulb “waxed” and growing.

The above information is courtesy of the National Garden Bureau. To continue reading and to see more photos of Amaryllis varieties, click here.

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