Hippeastrum bulbs are popular gifts at Christmas. They are often commonly, but incorrectly, known as amaryllis. By following a few easy tips, these showy, beautiful flowers will bloom year after year for you.
Hippeastrum is a tender bulb and needs to be planted in a pot indoors.
Bulbs should flower about six to eight weeks after planting, and should be planted from October to January.
Here’s how to plant your bulbs:
- Plant bulbs using John Innes No.2 or multipurpose compost into pots a little larger than the bulb itself. Two-thirds of the bulb should remain above the surface
- Place in a well-lit spot at 21°C (70°F)
- Water sparingly until the new leaves develop and then start watering regularly. Do not let the compost dry out, but avoid excess water collecting in the saucer
- Turn the pot regularly to prevent the flower stalk growing towards the light. Cultivars with large flowers should be staked
- When in flower, move the plant to a cooler place, about 15–18°C (60-65°F), to extend the flowering period
- After flowering, grow the bulb on and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser weekly
- Place the bulbs in their pots outside or in the greenhouse during the summer months, but shade them from scorching sunshine and water regularly
- In late September move the plants to a well-lit position and keep cooler at about 13°C (55°F) for eight to ten weeks. Stop feeding and reduce watering so that the plant becomes semi-dormant
- After this cool dormant period, cut the remaining old leaves to 10cm (4in) from the neck of the bulb. Replace the top 2.5-5cm (1-2in) of compost
- Commence growing as for planting of a new bulb
- In late September, withhold watering and let the plants gradually dry out. They may die back as a result
- Keeping them in their pots, place the plants in a cool place, such as a greenhouse or garage (light is not necessary), for one to two months
- Start them back into growth by bringing them indoors into the light and resuming watering and feeding
Hippeastrums need re-potting every two or three years in January to March after flowering.
Hippeastrums can be propagated by seed or from bulb offsets.
Seed-raised hippeastrums can take up to six years to reach maturity and flower. They will also usually differ from the parent plant.
- Sow seed as fresh as possible in spring in free draining seed compost
- Maintain a temperature of 21°C (70°F)
- Start feeding with a general pot plant feed five to six weeks after germination, until September
- Grow in individual small pots, potting on periodically during the spring and summer into slightly larger pots each time the pot becomes well filled with roots
- Keep the plants growing actively in moderate warmth and do not induce dormancy (do not drop the temperature as for inducing flowering)
Propagation by offsets will produce a flowering bulb in three to four years, which will be identical to the parent plant.
- Separate offsets from the main bulb when repotting (January to March). Look out for offsets with their own roots
- Pot up in individual pots in a free-draining compost
- Keep at a temperature of 21°C (70°F), feed in same way as potted seedlings and don’t induce dormancy
Indoor amaryllis are very popular in the run up to Christmas with many colour forms available. Here are but a few;
- Hippeastrum papilio AGM – unusual white flowers with deep red streaks and touches of green
- H. 'Belinda' AGM – deep crimson flowers
- H. 'Bestseller' AGM – cerise pink flowers
- H. 'Red Lion' – strong red-flowered form
- H. 'Star of Holland' AGM – red with white markings
- H. 'Lady Jane' – semi-double salmon pink blooms
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Failure to flower can be due to drying off bulbs too early, growing in excessively shady conditions, or under-watering during the previous summer.
Attack from various fungal diseases or bulb pests (such as bulb scale mite or large narcissus bulb fly) might also be to blame. If placed outdoors in summer, watch out for slugs and snails.
Common name Amaryllis
Botanical name Hippeastrum species and cultivars
Flowering time Winter to spring
Planting time October to January
Height & spread 25-90cm (10in-3ft) by 30cm (12in)
Aspect Bright, filtered light
Difficulty Moderately easy