Amaryllis is a popular Christmas gift. The large bulbs are generally sold in colourful boxes complete with pot and compost for planting. The bright, showy flowers look like trumpets on long, straight stems with strap-like leaves. They are a delightful addition to a window sill in the depths of winter when the garden offers little colour. It is exciting to watch the bulb spring to life and flourish. This Advent photo blog records the enthralling growth of Amaryllis ‘ Picotee’ over 43 days from bulb to flowering.
The plant is a member of the Amaryllidaceae, like Daffodils and Snowdrops. Confusingly, although commonly known as Amaryllis, the flower is not in the Amaryllis genus. That genus is reserved for just two South African plants: Amaryllis belladonna and Amaryllis paradisicola. Taxonomists placed our South American Amaryllis in Hippeastrum, as they are not directly related to the South African Amaryllis genus.
Hippeastrum has been widely cultivated. There are 91 recognised species and over 600 hybrids. Taxonomists remain dissatisfied with the current status of the genus. Further reclassification is likely in future. In the meantime, we can enjoy the beautiful flowers. The name Amaryllis derives from the Ancient Greek verb to sparkle or shine, while Hippeastrum is taken to mean knight’s star. Whichever name you prefer to use, it contains recognition of this floral shining star.
A plant’s bulb acts as an underground storage organ. An Amaryllis bulb is strikingly large by contrast with other bulbs. Botanists describe it as a true or tunicate bulb. The bulb is covered with a paper-like tunic that protects the internal scales from drying out and from harm. The inside of an Amaryllis bulb looks very much like the inside of an onion when you cut it in half. Before you see the first emergence of green at the top of a bulb as above, the shoot pushes up from the base and between scale layers.
From Bud to Flowers
The growth proceeds much more quickly twenty days after planting on a brightly-lit window sill. The strap-like leaves emerge first, but then a bud on a straight stem gradually pushes above the leaves. It is fascinating to watch the bud gradually swell before the protective bracts split open and you can spy the unopened flowers. Slowly the flower buds drop and take up positions as if heading for the 4 points of a compass. The flowers open in turn, revealing a beautiful creamy white colour with red trim and yellowish-green centres.
The florid treat is not over yet. A second stem should soon follow and I still have the Christmassy red of Amaryllis ‘Barbados’ to look forward. Amaryllis is perfect for winter, window sill colour.
© Karen Andrews
References and Further Reading
- Christenhusz, Maarten J. M & Fay, Michael F. & Chase, Mark W. (2017): Plants of the World. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Vascular Plants. Kew, Chicago.
- Essig, Frederick B. (2019): Theme and Variation – the Amaryllidaceae. Botany Professor. Blog 19 April 2019.
- Maree, Johannes & van Wyk, Ben-Erik (2010): Cut Flowers of the World. Briza, South Africa.
- Pertuit, A. J. Jr. (1995): Understanding and Producing Amaryllis. Clemson Extension. Hort L.63, Rep. August 1995.
- Primmer, Mel (2017): Why is the Amaryllis Flower Related to Christmas? Garden Guides. 21 September 2017.
- Tropical Plant Party (?): What’s Inside an Amaryllis Bulb/Cutting Open Amaryllis Bulb day 15. YouTube.
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.