Hippeastrum is a genus of bulbous flowering plants in the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). There is a bit of confusion here since the common name “Amaryllis” (primarily used in the United States), refers to the cultivars of the genus Hippeastrum. Whereas the scientific name Amaryllis spp. refers to a genus with two famous species –Amaryllis belladonna and Amaryllis paradisicola. Both these genus of plants are in the same family, Amaryllidaceae, but originate from different regions.
Hippeastrum (the plant this article is about) is native to Eastern Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. If you’re in the States with an “Amaryllis”, chances are you’re dealing with Hippeastrum cultivars since Amaryllis spp. is not cultivated in the US.
- Hippeastrum Main Characteristics
- Hippeastrum Care
- Propagating Hippeastrum
- Potting and Repotting Hippeastrum
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) – Tips to keep your plant healthy (Video)
Hippeastrum Main Characteristics
|Native Range||Central and South America|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||7b to 10|
|Mature Size||Height: 1-2 feet; Spread: about 1 feet|
|Bloom Time||Spring, Summer, Winter|
|Propagation methods||by seed, by offsets, by twin scale cuttings|
|Sun||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil||Good Drainage, Moist|
Depending on the variety, Hippeastrum bulbs produce one or two large, showy, and bell-shaped flowers. The petals are typically red, pink, white, and all the shades in between. The flowers are the main attraction but there are lots of other plants with gorgeous flowers. What makes these perennials loved by gardeners is their hardy nature and general ease of care.
Light and Location
These plants require bright light in partial shade to flower. They can also grow in full sun but yellowing may occur. They do nicely as an indoor houseplant on windowsills or in the corner of a room. Just make sure that they get the light that they need in order to flower. You can also move them outside on a patio or deck to allow for some dappled sunlight.
Amaryllis are easy to care for and only require a little bit of water to stay healthy. The plant’s soil should be kept moist but should not stay wet. Water the soil when it is dry and keep it well-drained so that water does not stand in the pot. These plants can easily get root rot.
The optimum temperature range for growing Hippeastrum is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures can result in weaker growth with smaller flowers. Although these plants are hardy, temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit can still kill them.
When it comes to feeding, use a balanced liquid slow-release fertilizer (10-10-10). Follow the instructions that come with the package and don’t overfeed. Overfeeding can result in too much salt in the soil.
When freshly potted and kept in bright light, these plants have a tendency to bloom after 5 week waiting period. They are usually planted before Thanksgiving or Christmas, meant to bloom around the festivities. But they can also be planted in early spring, to begin the 5 weeks cycle.
Regardless of when they are planted, after the flowers fade, they need a period of rest (about two months). And then the cycle starts again. Amaryllis are among the rare few plants that can repeat this multiple times a year. Vast majority of other similar plants tend to die out after the first bloom.
Hippeastrums are propagated mostly by using offsets (bulbils). Bulbils usually start to form on the mother bulb during the growing season but take time to grow.
The offsets can be left in place or separated from the mother bulb (Simply twist and pull). Either way, they can be planted now. They will grow enough to produce new flowers after about two years.
“Twin Scales” Propagation Method
There is also the Twin Scale method of cutting bulbs. It requires you to split the bulbs evenly into 12 cloves and separate each clove in such a way that it remains attached to the basal base. This method is also called basal cutting. The best time to do this is usually from late summer to late autumn, provided this happens a year or so after the plant was initially planted. While you can also try cutting bulbs earlier, it’s hit or miss.
After you’ve planted the bulb cuttings (1/3 of the portion face down in well-drained soil), wait one or two months for new bulbils to form. All the while keep the pot in a warm location with plenty of shade and a little bit of water. Leaves will form from the new bulbils and you can replant them into a new container and wait for them to flower.
Using seeds is also a viable method but with the added risk of getting plants dissimilar to the parents and taking a full year to germinate. Commercial suppliers can also propagate these plants using tissue culture.
Potting and Repotting Hippeastrum
The potting mix should be humus-rich with a peat or sand base. The pot needs drainage holes so that the water doesn’t sit in the pot for long. It’s important to maintain proper drainage channels in order to prevent root rot from occurring in this plant. When planting, don’t bury the bulb completely but rather keep the top part out of the soil so that it doesn’t get submerged in water.
When in bloom, this plant tends to get top-heavy. Make sure to add sufficient counterbalance at the base to prevent the pot from tipping over. An inch-wide layer of gravel would do nicely.
This plant often needs repotting after a couple of years since the bulbs have a tendency to grow outwards. The best time is after the blooms have faded and the plant enters dormancy. They can usually recover the roots lost during repotting when the growing period arrives again.
All parts of the Hippeastrum plant are toxic, especially the bulbs. If ingested, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. It is important to keep this plant away from children and pets.
When used as a houseplant indoors, mealybugs can sometimes be a problem. These sap suckers can cause a lot of damage to the plant if left unchecked. Look for them on the underside of leaves as they like to hide in the crevices. If you notice any mealybugs on your plant, take action immediately to get rid of them.
No more flowers?
Flowers fade naturally after their lifecycle is over but they can be made to flower again if you care for them properly. After the flowers fade, cut off the stalk 2 inches above the bulb. Give the plant the regular water until autumn arrives. Then reduce watering frequency. Put it in a slightly chilly room at about 10–13°C (50–55°F). The plant will enter dormancy for about two months. The foliage will appear to wilt during this time. After the rest period is over, the plant will begin to flower again.
Flower spike is slow to develop?
Colder than optimal temperatures can result in slower growth. Move the plant to a warmer spot. You should begin to see faster and healthier growth after a small waiting period.
No flower the following winter?
If your plant has already gone through a cycle and isn’t reflowering, it probably needed more time in the dormancy phase. Remember, it needs at least 2 months of rest, sometimes more.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) – Tips to keep your plant healthy (Video)
How to care for Amaryllis?
Maintain a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Give the plant bright, indirect light. Water sparingly and don’t the soil get soggy.
What to do with Amaryllis after it blooms?
After the blooming season ends, keep tending to the plant the same as before. Give it water and feed. You can even move it outside for the summer. In autumn, stop feeding, water less, and allow the plant to enter dormancy. After about two and a half months, move the plant back indoors and begin watering and feeding again. New flowers should appear after a short wait.
How to plant an Amaryllis bulb?
Fill a pot that is only one size larger than the bulb with a well-draining potting mix. Make drainage holes in the sides and fill them with gravel. Plant the bulb in the soil while keeping the top third of the bulb above the surface. Begin watering and keep the pot in a warm room until the first signs of sprouting appear.