A Cheering Winter Star

I was in need of a morale boost a couple of weeks ago, and soon the answer came to me: Amaryllis bulbs. Something I could order immediately, plant indoors, and enjoy while the garden was still a frozen wasteland. It was a little late to order Amaryllis – most varieties were sold out – but I was still happy with the selections I made.

An important point of clarification here: these are not Amaryllis Amaryllis. These are Hippeastrum Amaryllis. As with Geranium/Pelargonium,  this is an instance where the taxonomists couldn’t make up their minds for decades but in the end us ordinary gardeners have to live with the confusion and fear of using the wrong name, as if it were out fault.

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Hippeastrum, what we normally call Amaryllis, is a genus of plants from Central and South America. In the Northern Hemisphere, we grow them to bloom indoors during the winter. Amaryllis is a genus of plants from South Africa, generally grown outdoors.

Anyway, I ordered a total of seven bulbs from John Scheepers. I was excited when the box arrived on Friday.

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Yesterday I potted up the newly arrived bulbs. I used ceramic pots that had been brought in for the winter.

The potted bulbs are sitting on the dining room table. Now every morning I can examine them minutely for signs of growth. Having plants to obsess over helps me maintain my mental equilibrium.

There’s more sun on the back porch but it tends to be too cold for tropical and sub-tropical bulbs to break dormancy. The light in the dining room has proven to be adequate in the past.

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Amaryllis ‘Picotee’. Photo from johnscheepers.com.

I’m trying out a new variety called ‘Picotee’. I was drawn to the pictures of big white flowers with crimson edges on the John Scheepers website. This is a late-blooming Royal Dutch Single Amaryllis. It generally takes two months or more to flower. That’s OK, though – if they bloom between February and early March, we can enjoy the flowers just as we need them the most.

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Amaryllis ‘Trentino’. Photo from johnscheepers.com.

The second variety I ordered is ‘Trentino’, a Christmas flowering Amaryllis. It should bloom in four to six weeks. ‘Trentino’ has smaller 4″ flowers on stems about 14″ high.

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Amaryllis ‘Miracle’. Photo from johnscheepers

The last variety I got is ‘Miracle’, what I think of as a more traditional Christmas blooming Amarillys with big 7″ red flowers.

In the past I’ve been very bad about saving Amaryllis bulbs over the summer, but this year I resolve to do better.

The British botanist William Herbert gave the genus Hippeastrum its name, which comes from the Greek for knight’s star. The connection to knights has been puzzling people ever since, but the flowers have a starlike shape and quality. Certainly their satiny texture, rich colors, and generous size gladdens the winter-weary.

Are you planting Amaryllis/Hippeastrum this winter?

46 Comments on “A Cheering Winter Star”

  1. I had several of these that I would nurture every year and have blooms at Christmas. Then one year I went to take the bulbs out for replanting and something had turned them to mush. Now I just enjoy them when I visit the local garden center.

  2. I have one amaryllis. I don’t know what kind it is. I received it as a gift last November. It was dipped in wax. I pealed the wax off and babied it through winter after it stopped blooming. Then I planted it in the ground just outside the back door. It made new leaves. I forgot about it and just brought it inside yesterday. I will put it onto a bulb vase any day now. The varieties you have chosen to plant are beautiful. Good luck with them. What kind of bulbs do you have in your dining room light that they encourage amaryllis to bloom? Are they something special?

  3. Lovely flowers. Can’t wait to see the photos of them in bloom.I purchased two Hippeastrum “The Clown” at the Tyler bulb sale and planted them outdoors (zone 8). Now I wonder if this wasn’t a mistake?

  4. We have them at work on display on the counter, but personally, I shy away from flowers with such big blooms. No idea, why. This summer, I planted two Irises. Their lovely, bluefringed, white bloooms, although half the size of amaryllis, looked somehow unnatural among all the other perrenials.

  5. Hello Jason, I miss Amaryllis, we tried to keep our one bulb going several years ago but all it was interested in was producing masses of offsets at the expense of the original bulb. Lots of foliage and no flowers. I can’t wait to see yours in flower in a few weeks. Will you keep us posted on how you save the bulbs for next year?

  6. Nice choices Jason. I have planted a few again this year, but the only one that survived from last year without shrivelling up completely has produced only leaves. I have now given up trying to make them flower again! One of mine should be flowering by Christmas, but the others are incredibly slow to sprout…. Good luck with yours!

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