Amaryllis belladonna is a favorite of many gardeners because it is very easy to cultivate, the beautiful big flowers are an eye-catching sight anywhere with unforgettable soft fragrance. It doesn’t take any special care for it to bloom. Amaryllis belladonna is an ornamental plant which is native to the Cape Province in South African. It was discovered growing wild on the Cape of Good Hope by a few Dutch growers who emigrated to South African. This wild Amaryllis produced 2 to 3 spikes per bulb, each spike with 4 to 6 flowers. Soon it was crossed with Dutch Amaryllis Hippeastrum, which was the beginning of the new race of Amaryllis which have many of the good characteristics of the Dutch Amaryllis, as well as those of the robust, wild African one. It is now widely cultivated and naturalized in different parts of the world.
About the Belladonna lily and it’s popular names.
The scientific name of this plant is Amaryllis belladonna, is the only species in the Amaryllis genus which means the African Amaryllis (A.Belladona) is the “true “ Amaryllis. It belong to the family (genera) Amaryllidaceae which forms a large group of over 6o genera. Other genera of horticultural importance found in warm climate regions include Clivia, Crinuum, Cyrthanthus, Nerine and Scadoxus.
Hippeastrum, which usually many gardeners mistakenly call amaryllis is a large South American genus. In the cold northern hemisphere popular genera include Narcissus (daffodils) and Leucojum (snowdrops). Amaryllis is Greek feminine ad is named after a beautiful shepherdess. The specific epithet belladonna is Latin, which means beautiful lady. There are many common names around the world, for instance in our land they are known as ‘Harmattan lilies’ because that is the time of year the plants flower, which is now. It’s not just a garden tale that they predict the coming of the Harmattan. They go by other names in other places such as ‘Belladonna Lilies’, ‘Surprise lilies’ and as ‘Naked Lady’.
Naked Ladies in the Garden
This plant is called ‘Naked Ladies’ for an obvious reason- the showy fragrant funnel-shaped flowers bloom on leafless stems. This strange phenomenon of flowering before the leaves appears is known as Hysteranthy. That brings us to their unique usefulness; you know how your garden looks in the mid or late dry season. Most of the big glamour is gone, and everything is looking tired, dusty, drab and hot. That is just the conditions these South African ladies are happiest in hot, dry locations or other warm places where condition can be controlled.
They just love hot dry weather, when everything appears to be barren ……….. when …voila | here come the ladies in all their nakedness and grunting perfumery. They are truly ladies who show off like the exhibitionists they are. They come into bloom to liven the landscape’s late season show. The flower color ranges from palest pink to deep pink, white, salmon, orange, depending on your climate. Hybridization has produced more colors and combinations such as white and pink varieties.
Naked but not naughty.
Amaryllis belladonna in it’s natural habitat in South African Cape province is found in small dense group among rocks. They form thick clumps and like to be crowded to form lots of flowers. Therefore the best place to plant them will be in the rock garden. In a created landscape, their leafless stem and the fact that they are perfectly happy in partial shade as well as in full sun makes them great for planting among shade loving plants as hostas , day lilies, violets, geraniums or anything that has foliage all year long. Amaryllis belladonna can be used mixed in between Agapanthus as a good combination. They can also be grown between a ground cover in mixed annual or herbaceous border. The green strappy leaves are wonderful welcome sight when growing, but unsightly when they die back. Best if they are hidden behind something where the dying leaves will not be noticeable. The tall blooms with no foliage are wonderful by themselves or just blooming up through the ground covering foliage or sticking up behind a low- growing hedge, their evergreen foliage providing skirts for the ’naked ladies’ .They’ll just bloom up through the ground covering foliage and everyone will think you’re a master gardener.
Growing Amaryllis bellladona
It is very easy to cultivate and tolerant to various climatic and soil conditions. This plant prefers well- drained soil and grows in different types of soil. What it cannot stand is wet soil, it will rot. The bulbs have a dormant state. After blooming has finished for the season, foliage will develop . The leaf will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strength the bulb for the future.
The leaves will stay green for few months. Then they will yellow and die back, when the foliage is absent, the bulbs are dormant. The plant is tolerant to drought conditions and requires very little watering even dry conditions. The large bulb and fleshy roots help to withstand dry conditions. Keep the soil around plant moist during growth period and allow the soil to remain dry during the dormant period. Large clumps of bulb can be divided during dormant period. The bulbs and offset should be planted in the prepared soil with the neck just above soil level. Plant each bulb at least 8-12 inches apart to allow grow space for the plant to grow. After planting, apply an inch layer of mulch or compost to cover the soil. You can also use the soft fleshy white to pink seed to propagate the plant. The seeds should be planted when it is fresh .
When seeds are sown on the potting mix and soil kept moist, it will germinate in two weeks but seedling will take 2 to 6 years or longer to flower. They can also be grown in large pots using a very porous mix. Once established these bulbs requires little attention. They are low maintenance. The Compost provided in the growing season is enough to feed the plant and produce blooms. In cultivation, the dry hot weather pleases these plants and helps ensure that flowers are produced almost every year, but in it’s wild native habitat in south African, they emerge prolifically after fires. The fragrant flowers are excellent for cutting and long lasting ,for a week or more in floral arrangements .