Amaryllis, or Hippeastrum, are deciduous bulbous plants, originating in South America; the bulb, of large dimensions, produces long arched leaves, of dark green color. Between January and June it produces a long fleshy stem on which very large trumpet-shaped flowers bloom, of various colors, simple or double. Numerous hybrids exist, generally they produce three or more flowers on every single stem, or they have striated flowers or of particular color; the cybister varieties have very particular flowers, with ribbon-like, arched petals, of purple or green color. The genus Amaryllis today is formed by a single species. In the past, however, it also included other plants such as hippeastrum, Nerina, Zephyrantes, Sternbergia lutea and Sprekelia formosissima.
In general we can say that the main difference between the amaryllis s and the hippeastrum is that the former is considerably more rustic than the latter. In fact, hippeastrum originates from Sudmaerica and blooms in the middle of winter, in a greenhouse. Amaryllis, on the other hand, blooms during the summer. Moreover in the first the flowers and leaves develop together, in the second the corollas appear nude and only afterwards does the leaf apparatus appear. For this reason, for example, in the United States they have been nicknamed "naked female". The genus originates from the southern part of the African continent, in particular from the area around the Cape of Good Hope. Its name derives from the Greek and means "shine".
Like many other bulbs, hippeastrums also produce small bulbs on the sides of the main bulb over the years; in autumn it is possible to detach the bulbils and cultivate them like the adult bulbs, even if they are difficult to flower already from the first year.
The hippeastrums are very appreciated as houseplants, generally exploiting the ease with which it is possible to force them to bloom in the middle of winter; the "natural" flowering takes place instead in late spring, in this case then the bulbs can be placed outdoors, in a cool and bright place, not too sunny, in a container or in the open ground. The hippeastrums belong to the amaryllidaceae family, and have acquired over time the common name of amaryllis; in the family of amaryllis, there is a species with the botanical name amaryllis, it is the amaryllis belladonna. In this case it is a bulb originating from southern Africa, sometimes also used in hippeastrum hybridizations. The belladonna amaryllis produce flowers similar to those of the hippeastrum, but slightly smaller, in shades of pink; these bulbous plants do not fear the cold, and therefore can be used freely in the garden, without having to necessarily unearth them when the cold arrives; they love very bright locations, even sunny ones, and bloom in late spring and summer.
The language of flowers is a world unto itself, made of secret, hidden messages communicated without the use of words. The message is communicated and understood based on the color, conformation, type of flower that is given and received. It is a world that intrigues and fascinates, a mysterious and delicate world. Giving a flower can be the ideal way to express a thought, an emotion, affection, gratitude and love. As with all flowers, even amaryllis carries a special meaning. It indicates elegance, pride and beauty but it is also a symbol of shyness. This is due to the outward appearance of the amaryllis which, despite its lively, intense, strong color and its large and majestic dimensions and long stem, contains a delicate fragrance almost in contradiction with its external appearance.
Cultivation of this plant is quite simple, especially where the climatic conditions are optimal. In Italy they can be placed in the middle of the whole Center-South and everywhere in the coastal areas.
These are medium-rustic plants that can easily withstand even up to -5 ° C. At these temperatures the leaves begin to suffer and suffer some damage. If temperatures remain at those levels, they will be able to recover easily as soon as spring arrives.
It is therefore advisable to cultivate them in full earth in all of central and southern Italy. In the north, instead, it is good to keep them in pots.
If the temperatures do not stray too far from the indicated range, insertion in the garden can be attempted with the foresight of planting the bulb at a greater depth and covering the area with a thick mulch based on leaves or abundant peat. If possible, choose a corner well sheltered from the cold wind so that the leaves do not suffer too much. Unfortunately, in these cases, it can happen that the complete failure of the plant involves a serious suffering to the bulb and consequently a scarce or no re-flowering. If we grow the plant in a pot and live in the North it will be good, during the coldest months (usually December and January), to place it in a well-lit cold greenhouse. Unfortunately, like all the bulbs, the cultivation in pots involves the fast exhaustion of the bulb and consequently it will be difficult to see for several years the repetition of flowering.
Amaryllis must be planted in spring or autumn at a depth about twice the height of the bulb, especially if the bulb is of medium size. If, on the other hand, it is a very large bulb that is ready to bloom in the same vintage, it is recommended to insert it a little closer to the surface. The recommended distance between one bulb and another is on average 20 cm.
It must be kept in mind that amaryllis do not particularly like to be handled and in particular to be transplanted. For this reason, in all probability it will be very difficult to see them flourish during the first year. You will have to wait at least two or three years. At that point it will be well to disturb them as little as possible and they will continue to give us great satisfaction for many years.
It may happen that when swelling, and causing many bulbils to form laterally, the root system begins to be visible at ground level. It is not necessary to intervene until after eight or nine years from the first insertion to divide the whole into several copies.
The amaryllis are rather tolerant in terms of substrate. They adapt to both light and heavier soils. If our soil is very compact we can lightly lighten it with sand and eventually, at the time of planting, we can more deeply prepare a drainage layer based on gravel or expanded clay.
The irrigations must be abundant when the plant is lengthening the flowering stem. In particular it will be necessary to intervene twice a week during the months of July and August, especially if the rains and thunderstorms were scarce. By the end of September, the intervention will become superfluous instead.
Irrigations should instead be avoided completely from the end of winter to spring. In fact this is the period of vegetative rest of the plant during which the leaves begin to dry.
To get good results it is good to give a very rich fertilizer during the summer, especially the first years after planting. The ones based on ox blood are excellent. The ideal is to distribute a product rich in nitrogen and potassium in the months from July to October. Later, the use of formulations with high percentages of phosphorus to help the plant store nutrients and thus stimulate bulb enlargement will be of great help. This will allow us to keep our plants for a long time and see them blooming more and more abundantly each year.
The belladonna amaryllis prefer very sunny and warm exposures. In fact, a strong insolation during the months of July and August is a factor that predisposes an abundant flowering.
They can also be grown in partial shade, especially in southern regions or in coastal areas.
In the North and in the Center, however, it is not recommended because during the winter period in a similar location they could suffer particularly for low temperatures.
As we have said, amaryllis can grow and flower in a container. However, it must be pointed out that in order to obtain a beautiful effect, a bulb of considerable size and ready to produce corollas must be purchased.
They will still be treated as annual plants. They can therefore be kept for only one season and then they will necessarily have to be placed in the open ground. The cultivation in pots, in fact, is very stressful and it is almost impossible for them to recover the nutrients lost through growth and flowering. However we try to give a jar of adequate size. On the bottom we prepare a good drainage layer composed of gravel or expanded clay. We choose a very rich substrate, but not excessively compact to avoid possible rottenness.
Continuously we start from mid-spring (also giving a liquid fertilizer) for flowering plants at least once a week). We always avoid using the saucer that could cause problems. After flowering we withdraw the vase in a cold greenhouse or in an unheated but very bright room. In spring, when all the leaves are dry, we can take out the bulb and put it in the garden, if we don't have it, give it to someone who can provide it.
The only intervention necessary is the removal of the leaves in spring. We wait quietly for them to be completely dry. At that point, it is usually not even necessary to use scissors. It will be enough to pull them gently and what remains is left alone.
As we have said, these are flowers that love little to be handled and react with failed flowering for several years. Therefore, to carry out the divisions it is necessary to intervene as little as possible, on average every 6 years. However, if we do not see the radical apparatus emerging in a worrying way from the ground we can also wait 8-9 years.
The operation must be performed after the leaves have completely dried out, then in late spring-early summer. All will be removed from the ground and the cloves from the side areas will be removed very gently. These should be inserted immediately into the ground in a very rich substrate, often giving fertilizer, especially phosphorus based. They will flower from the third to fourth year, but will reach full development around the tenth year. Seed multiplication is also possible, but is not recommended for various reasons. First of all rarely in our country is it possible to make this plant bear fruit. Secondly, the times are really long. It may take up to 10 years to see the first flowering.
Pests and adversities
It is a very resistant plant and is hardly attacked by insects or suffers from cryptogams.
It can happen that in summer or autumn, with heavy rain or night humidity, the leaves become the target of slugs or snails. If the damage is heavy we can set up traps or spread appropriate slugs.
Amaryllis: Poisonous plant
Let us remember that amaryllis belladonna is a poisonous plant in all its parts. We therefore pay the utmost attention to children and animals. We also use gloves when we carry out work.
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