Both types of amaryllis are tender bulbous plants of great beauty. While in full bloom they can make a brilliant display of their handsome, delicate flowers of flared petals and slender stamens.
The word amaryllis actually means “sparkling,” which refers to its large trumpet shaped flowers, and named after a shepherdess of Greek mythology in poetry by Virgil and Theocritus. The genus name, Hippeastrum is derived from hippeus, a knight, and astron, a star. In 1753 Carolus Linnaeus created the name Belladonna, the type of species to the genus Amaryllis. During this time-period all amaryllis plants were placed in the same genus, however in 1987 they were separated into two different genera.
Hippeastrum bulbs are described as “ready to bloom for the holidays” when purchased in late October and November. But if you don’t have a preference when the plant blooms, you can purchase bulbs after Christmas at a fraction of the original cost. And remember, Valentine’s Day and Easter are just around the corner––which are holidays. The Hippeastrum is a magnificent pot plant, but it can thrive beautifully in a flower garden, especially in Central Texas. The Belladonna Lily flourishes in the Austin area also.
The two bulbs are related: both are from the tropics and sub-tropic, and both have large stalks and trumpet-shaped flowers. Nevertheless, they are different and have differing cultural requirements.
The Hippeastrum can be grown successfully indoors as a pot plant. Bulbs vary in size, so in selecting a pot, allow for 2 inches of space between the bulb and the edge of the pot. For the soil base, use a compost mixture of two parts fibrous loam, one part peat moss, and half a part well-decayed manure, with coarse sand and a scattering of bone meal added. Mix well. Set the bulb so that the neck and one-half of the bulb are above the surface of the soil. Firm soil thoroughly around the base of the bulb and water. Keep soil slightly moist until the bulb starts to grow, then water more frequently. After flower buds form, feed lightly with a complete fertilizer (1 teaspoon to a 8 inch pot) every two weeks throughout the blooming season. After the flowers fade cut off the stem 2 inches above the bulb. After frost, shift the bulb, with root ball intact, out of the pot and plant it in the ground.
Belladonna Lily bulbs should be planted outdoors in June or July. Set the bulbs with the tops even with or slightly above ground level and about 12 inches apart. Fortunately, for gardeners in the Austin area, the Belladonna Lily is immune to pests and diseases and thrives in the poorest soils and under the driest conditions in the West. Leave the plant undisturbed as long as it continues to bloom satisfactorily. They seldom suffer from being crowded by numerous progeny.