December houseplant of the month: Amaryllis
The story of Amaryllis
Stylish and sensual Amaryllis (also known as Hippeastrum) is available in many varieties and rich earthy colours. This houseplant’s big feature is its changing appearance. A stately hollow stem emerges from a bulb on which smooth buds develop. Those open into voluminous calyxes with velvety petals in white, salmon, red, pink or even green. The flowers can reach a diameter of 20 cm. This is very spectacular, particularly because you do not expect such a lavish display from such a sleek stem, especially not in the winter months.
Amaryllis is a member of the Narcissus family, with more than 70 species. It’s native to the (sub-)tropical regions of Mexico and the Caribbean through to northern Argentina. The first plants probably developed in Brazil. The plant was first cultivated in Europe in around 1800.
What to look for when buying Amaryllis
- When buying Amaryllis, look at the colour and the flower shape which will emerge from the bulbs. The larger the bulb, the more (hollow) stems emerge from it, sometimes up to 3-4 stems per pot. Every stem produces 3 or 4 conical flowers. The less ripe the plant is, the trickier it is to see how many buds will form, but the buds are usually fairly well-developed in the supply phase.
- Check that the bulb is well rooted and not too loose in the pot. A green tip must already visible on the bulb when purchasing.
- Check that there is no mould on the bulb or the soil – a sign that the plant has been too damp.
- The bulb and stems can be affected by ‘red blotch’ (red stripes on the stem) but this does not detract from the lifespan.
- Amaryllis can easily be stored cool, even in a chiller. The ideal storage temperature is 5-8 °C, However, do this for as little time as possible, because the plant can quickly suffer from too little light, causing the buds to dry out. If the plant is stored too warm, it will ripen more quickly, reducing the saleability.
Choice of range
The Amaryllis range is very broad. Alongside main colours such as red, pink and white, new colours are constantly being added, like salmon, lilac, green, orange and bi-coloured varieties with stripes or edges. There are varieties with single and double flowers. Bulbs with a wax or felt coating that the consumer doesn’t have to do anything to are very popular. Do stress that it requires patience: it takes a few weeks for a bulb to start growing. An Amaryllis in a pot develops slightly faster.
How to identify the various cultivars:
Galaxy Group, single-flowered, flower diameter larger than 16 cm
Diamond Group, single-flowered, flower diameter 12-16 cm
Colibri Group, single-flowered, flower diameter less than 12 cm
Double Galaxy Group, double-flowered, flower diameter larger than 16 cm
Double Diamond Group, double-flowered, flower diameter 12-16 cm
Double Colibri Group, double-flowered, flower diameter less than 12 cm
Spider Group, single-flowered, little or no overlap of bracts
Butterfly Group, single-flowered, slightly oval
Trumpet Group, single-flowered, long trumpet-shaped flowers
Care tips for consumers
- Amaryllis can tolerate both dark and light positions, as long as it’s reasonably cool.
- Do not allow the soil to dry out, but do not have standing water either. Bulbs with felt or wax will flower without water, but should not be too warm, otherwise the flowers will dry up.
- There’s no need to feed, since the nutrients are already in the bulb.
Display tips for Amaryllis
Amaryllis is a real winter bloomer with a classic December/January vibe. Place various sizes and different colours together, or show modern ways of using the plant. Kokedama, lying in a bowl, on a bulb stand or in a terrarium – it’s worth showing what else can be done with the plant apart from just having it flower in a pot.