Friday, January 15, 2010

Amaryllis is in Bloom

Thank you Lynn for the beautiful Amaryllis- This Gorgeous red color Brightens my spirits in all this winter weather- we have all been anxiously waiting for it to BLOOM.

Facts about this Plant:
Info from Wikipedia

Many bulbs sold as Amaryllis and described as 'ready to bloom for the holidays' actually belong to the allied genus Hippeastrum, despite being labeled as 'Amaryllis' by sellers and nurseries.

"Hippeastrum" is Greek for "horseman's star" (also known today as "knight's star") and was chosen in 1837 by the Honorable Reverend William Herbert, Dean of Manchester. While no one is entirely sure why he picked this name, it's likely he chose it because of the plant's striking resemblance to the "morning star," a medieval weapon used by horsemen, as William Herbert was both a clergyman and something of an expert on early medieval history. A version of the weapon was also called a "holy water sprinkler," an ecclesiastical object with which the Dean would have been familiar.

The first commercial breeders of Hippeastrum were Dutch growers who imported several species (see list at right) from Mexico and South America and began developing cultivars and hybrids from them in the 18th century; the first of these reached North America early in the 19th century. In 1946 two Dutch growers moved to the Union of South Africa and began cultivation there. Although most Hippeastrums come from the Dutch and South African sources, bulbs are now being developed in the United States, Japan, Israel, India, Brazil and Australia. The double flowers from Japan are particularly beautiful.

Flower characteristics

In general only a large bulb will put up more than one flower scape or spike but this depends on the cultivar itself; some smaller bulbs have two while some larger bulbs make only one. A bulb must produce at least four large, healthy leaves in the summer growing season before it can send up a scape the following year. Some bulbs put up two flower scapes at the same time; others may wait several weeks between blooms and sometimes the second scape will have only two or three flowers rather than the usual four. Dutch bulbs usually produce flowers first, then, after it has finished blooming, the plant will begin growing leaves. Bulbs from the South African growers usually put up a scape and leaves at the same time.

The flower colors include red, rose, pink, white, orange, yellow, and pale green with variations on these including different colored stripes and edges on the petals. Some flowers have uniform colors or patterns on all six petals while others have more pronounced colors on the upper petals than on the lower ones.

There are five types: 1) single flower; 2) double flower; 3) miniature; 4) cybister; and 5) trumpet. Cybisters have extremely thin petals and are often described as spider-like. Trumpets, as the name suggests, have flared, tube-shaped flowers. Single, double, and miniature bulbs are the ones typically sold by nurseries and other stores for the holidays in December and for Valentine's Day and Easter.

The miniature "Papilio" (which is a species hippeastrum, i.e., not a cultivar or hybrid but the actual plant that grows in the wild) has a unique color and pattern with broad rose-burgundy center stripes and striations of pale green on the upper petals and narrow stripes on the bottom three. "Papilio" has been crossed with both cybister and single flower Hippeastrums to produce hybrids with unusual striping.

Buying bulbs

Between 20–25 new hippeastrum cultivars come on the market every year and 10–15 are discontinued. Even though most stores and nurseries sell only a few of these, many others are for sale on the World Wide Web — as of December 2006 there were 194 different cultivars plus many species Hippeastrums for sale at online stores and auctions listed under both "hippeastrum" and "amaryllis." Newer and more exotic bulbs usually sell out the fastest.

Bulbs should be firm to the touch and greenish-white with thin brown outer layers like an onion. Nearly all bulbs for sale will be healthy but watch for and reject any that are soft, have blue or greenish mold, look decayed or appear to be extremely dried out or in a state of desiccation. Sometimes bulbs will already have a flower spike or leaves.


Hippeastrum plants do well in either clay or plastic pots but those in clay pots may need to be watered more frequently than those in plastic. Pick a pot with open drain holes that is 10–15 cm (4–6") wider than the bulb. Soak the bottom of the bulb with the roots in warm (not hot) water — this will make them pliable and easier to spread out in the pot. Position the bulb so the top third is above the soil line. Use any good commercial potting soil and, if desired, top it off with a light covering of orchid mix or sphagnum moss as mulch.

Put the bulb where it will get some sun everyday and water it once. Care should be taken not to over-water: after the first watering do not water again until growth is visible or the soil has become bone dry, and then water sparingly. Too much water will cause the bulb and its roots to rot — at this stage the bulb is not capable of absorbing much water. Watering can be increased to weekly after a 20 cm (8") flower spike with bud or two 25 cm (10") leaves have appeared. Do not feed the bulb while it is blooming.

Most new Hippeastrums take between two weeks and three months to bloom after they have been potted. They may wait a few weeks or months and then rebloom, or they may be finished for the year. New bulbs usually produce a flower spike with four flowers but two or three flowers are not uncommon.

Some Hippeastrums grow both very long leaves and stems that may bend or even break under the weight of the flowers. Stake these with a wire plant support or by inserting a thin bamboo stick or dowel in the soil next to the bulb and then tying it loosely to the stem with wire ties or string. After blooming remove the flowers and allow the stem to die back until it turns yellow and sags, then cut it to within 5 cm (2") of the bulb. Keep the plant indoors in a sunny location until the time comes to move it outside for summer.

Summer care

In most parts of the continental U.S., bulbs can be moved outside by or before the end of May. Remember this is a semi-tropical plant that needs an extended growing season and there is not enough light in the average home for them to do well. Bulbs do need some sun during the day but their leaves may burn if they are subjected to prolonged periods of hot afternoon sun during summer. Water regularly and feed every other week with a general houseplant water-soluble fertilizer — or use a granulated fertilizer when repotting in the fall. A hot weekend with no water will not harm the bulb, but allowing it to sit in wet soil for several weeks will probably cause the bulb and its roots to rot; this condition also makes it more vulnerable to parasites and disease .

If desired, pots with bulbs can be buried in the garden for less maintenance and watering; in this case they also look more "natural" in the garden setting but they will have to be dug up in the fall. Hippeastrum roots do need oxygen (many species are epyphitic), so when potting or planting make sure sphagnum moss does not go deeper than 1 cm below the bulb and use a granulated mixture (starting with the smaller granules and ending with the biggest — either perlite, pouzzolane, akadama or clay balls) in the root area to keep a good level of gas exchange and protect your plant from root rot.

Fall (Autumn) care

In the Northern hemisphere, except in very hot climates, cut back on watering in September; in the Southern hemisphere, March. This is done to prevent rot as the bulb enters its resting period and no longer requires regular watering. If it continues to rain then move the bulb inside or to a covered porch. Otherwise, bulbs can be left outside in the sun until the night temperature reaches about 10 °C (50 F). Bulbs can survive a light frost, but not a heavy freeze. Begin the inspection/repotting phase in October or early November in Northern latitudes / April to May in Southern latitudes (depending on location and temperature): remove the top 5–7 cm (2–3") of soil and pull the bulb up. Inspect the roots for signs of parasites, disease or rot (note: healthy roots are white and slightly fuzzy). If the bulb and its roots look healthy, then put it back in its pot and replace the soil removed with new soil. Replace all soil every other year. If desired add 5 cc (1 teaspoon) of granulated fertilizer to the pot before replacing the bulb — in which case do not feed it during the summer (see above). Cut off any yellow or dead leaves.

Hippeastrum plants produce more flowers when they are pot-bound and not putting their energy into growing new roots so many can be left in the same planter year after year; others may require a larger pot after a couple of years. Bulbs may produce offsets or daughter bulbs. These can be left with the mother plant until they reach blooming size and then removed and planted on their own.

There is a misconception that Hippeastrum needs a period of total darkness before they will bloom again. This is not true, what they need is a rest period in a room with average light where the temperature is between 7–16 °C (45–60 F). This confusion no doubt comes about because two other popular plants sold during the winter holidays, Christmas cactus and Poinsettia, do require exact periods of light and complete darkness to set buds.

Most Hippeastrum need a rest period with light monthly watering of at least six weeks although others may require as long as three or four months. Often the plant will send up a flower spike or leaves when it is ready to resume growing in which case put it in a sunny window and water it once. A bulb that has not begun growing on its own after the rest period can be brought out and watered once. Usually the warmer temperature, sunlight and water will prompt it to begin growing again.

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