The striking red shades of Amaryllis varieties such as ‘Red Velvet’ and ‘Red Lion’ have helped to establish this South African export as Britain’s favourite plant to give at Christmas time. But late December is by no means the only time to give, grow or spot Amaryllis in the UK.
Amaryllis is the longest-lasting winter cut flower on the market, giving it huge appeal in British households. But this bulb, known by its common name ‘the naked lady’, will flower all the way through to June if cared for properly.
With large, brown, rounded bulbs, Amaryllis has a moderately fast rate of growth. It grows tall on substantial stems, with large, vibrant flowers. The names given to the many varieties of Amaryllis reflect its vibrant, bold qualities; Ferrari, Liberty, Showmaster, and Nymph, for example.
The flower’s natural habitat, on the South West Cape of South Africa, is amongst rocks in direct sunlight. The bulbs therefore do well bunched in dense groups and given bright exposure to light to encourage flowering. Amaryllis prefers dry conditions to humidity and moisture, with a dry period essential to successful growth between leaf growth and flower production.
This is a relatively straightforward flower to grow, and one that yields very satisfying results, Amaryllis is in high demand all over the world. As such, it can be an expensive flower to buy, whether in bulb or cut form.
The Amaryllis genus, from the Amaryllidaceae family, has two flowering species; Amaryllis Belladonna and Amaryllis Paradisicola. Amaryllis is commonly referred to by florists as belladonna lilies, naked ladies and Amarillo. Its botanical name is Hippeastrum.
Amaryllis enjoys good pre-mixed potting compost, and should be planted up to its neck with care taken not to damage the roots. Ideally, Amaryllis will be left to grow in temperatures of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, being watered sparingly at first and then more as the bud and leaves appear. Again, a dry period should be allowed between leaf growth and full flowering.
Did You Know?
Amaryllis is named after a beautiful Greek shepherdess who is mentioned in Roman poetry.