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Naked ladies: One-of-a-kind horticultural wonder

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
04 August 2018   |   4:07 am
Amaryllis is a crowd- pleaser with look-at me blossoms in cheerful dramatic blooms. Few bulbs are easier to grow than the amaryllis – and few blooms with greater exuberance and beauty.


Amaryllis is a crowd- pleaser with look-at me blossoms in cheerful dramatic blooms. Few bulbs are easier to grow than the amaryllis – and few blooms with greater exuberance and beauty. The beauty of amaryllis is that anybody can make them happen. Before they are even buried in the soil, they sometimes sprout plump buds full of promise. Then they continue shooting up bloom spikes, despite forgetful watering and less-than-perfect growing conditions. Amaryllis makes all of our thumbs green. Tuck them in a pot, put them in a window, half-bury them in the soil, and you will enjoy the performance of a lifetime without fuss. And what a show! They come in plus sizes and look like blaring trumpets for weeks- and then the next flower spike pops up. Properly cared for, an amaryllis can live for 75 years! These are no-fail bulbs, most amaryllis will bloom seasonally for years, amaryllis are power houses species in the amaryllidaceae family of flowering plants, and mostly long-lived, perennial herbs arising from a bulb or, less commonly, from rhizomes (underground and stems). Between 900 and 1300 species of amaryllis have been recognized. Most are tropical and subtropical, with centre’s of distribution in South Africa, western Mediterranean (especially Spain and Morocco) and to a lesser extent, Andean, South and Central America and Caribbean. Many amaryllis are prized as ornamentals for home or garden because of their large, showy flowers, which are held high alone on leafless stalk contrasting dark green leaves. Amaryllis is a monotypic (consisting of only one species) genus of flowering plants including the Belladonna lily- Amaryllis belladonna lily. The amaryllis hybrids known as Hippeastrum, with spectacular flowers that have evolved for pollination by bees or moths, but many are also adapted to bird and some to bat pollination. The flowers are shades of white, yellow, orange, purple, pink or red, but never blue. Plant breeders have developed more than 600 varieties Amaryllises are widely distributed throughout the world, especially in the flatlands of the tropics and subtropics. Many species are drought resistant Xerophytes that produce leaves when the rainy season begins, open their stomates only at night, have stomates located in the bottom of pits, and have thick waxy leaves- all to conserve water.

The Cape belladoma (Amaryllis belladonna) is a native of dry regions of southwestern Cape Province, South Africa where it grows in rocky arid location. Cultivated for its large pink bell shaped bloosoms. Of all flowering bulbs, amaryllis are the easiest to bring to bloom. This can be accomplished indoors or outdoors, and over an extended period of time, 7-10 weeks. The large flowers and ease with which they can be brought to bloom make amaryllis popular and in demand worldwide. The amaryllis comes in many beautiful varieties including various shades of red, white, pink, salmon and orange. There are also many striped and multicolored varieties, usually combining shades of pink or red with white. Amaryllis is Belladonna known as Harmattan lilies in this region because they bloom during this season. Also called naked lady. It gets this name because its flowers are carried on a (sometimes two) naked stem(s) that has no leaves. The stems are long and erect and usually bear two to twelve’s flowers with the plethora of colours and varieties (there are bi-colours, double and miniatures) there’s always one to enhance your interior landscape. You can mix and match by bringing them together in a large tray, or putting them in separate pots arranged on shelving units.

Modern amaryllis hybrids throws out more blossoms per stem and send up more stems per bulb on an extended period of time. Big forms include the “Nymph” and “Amadeus” cultivars with plump double or many petaled flowers on shorter stems that are less likely to topple. Smaller or miniature forms include the Cybister group (South America)which tend towards smaller spider-like Cybister flowers for a more sophisticated artsy spin on the standard species. Examples are Cybister “Sumatra’ with spider-thin open faced coral blossoms; ‘Emerald’ has thin white petals with green centers.They all add dramatic color to the interior and outdoor landscape. Their economic importance lies in floriculture for cut flowers and bulbs, and commercial and vegetable production. Also in medicine discovery have been made for drug to treat Alheizemer disease.

Growing Amaryllis
Amaryllis may be purchased as bulbs or plants in near bloom. Amaryllis should be kept out of direct sunlight while flowering to prolong the life of the flowers. When growing amaryllis from bulbs, it’s important to select large and healthy bulbs. Larger bulbs will produce more stalks and blooms. Healthy bulbs will be firm and dry with no signs of mold, decay or injury.

Plant amaryllis bulbs in containers that have holes for drainage, and are deep enough to allow for good root development. The container diameter should be about one inch larger than that of the bulbs. This may seem small, but amaryllis bulbs prefer a smaller container. Cover two thirds of the bulb with potting medium, leaving the upper third uncovered. Amaryllis bulbs grow best when they are a bit crowded so they don’t need too much potting mix. Amaryllis don’t like to sit in damp soil, and too much material around them can lead to them becoming water logged and rotten.

The best potting mix for amaryllis has high organic matter but also well drained. One good mix is made of two parts loam, one part perlite and one part rotten manure. This makes for a balance of organic and draining amaryllis soil requirements. Another recommended mix is one part loam, one part sand and one part compost. Whatever you use make sure your organic matter is well rotted and broken up by enough gritty material to allow water to drain easily.
Uses: Can be planted in containers, beds and borders, as cut flowers for bouquet and centrepiece. They make bold statemant with their impressive blooms.

Water your amaryllis from the top keeping the soil continually moist but not so wet that water collects in the saucer.

Plant amaryllis between six and eight weeks before you’d like them to bloom. They need to be kept at a steady 20 – 25 c to trigger them too begin to grow. Once the bulb have sprouted move them to a bright spot to continue growing, remembering to turn regularly to stop the stems bending towards the window or other light source. Keep the soil moist. Once the amaryllis begin to flower, you can make the bloom last longer by moving the plant to a cooler spot.

Ideal growing condition: A well-drained soil is pre-requisite for amaryllis.

Light: Partially shady to full sunlight

Moisture: moist (medium moist is best).
Suitable soil types: loamy, neutral, sandy, well drained.

Planting: plant bulbs about a foot apart and leave the tops less covered with soil. The soil should be mulched to conserve the moisture and help control weeds. After planting thoroughly water the amaryllis bulb.

Propagation: seeds, sowing them in containers, alternatively by offsets bulbs come to flower 7-10 weeks.