A flower for festivities

A hippeastrum (Amaryllis) flowering in all its glory.
A hippeastrum (Amaryllis) flowering in all its glory.
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Big isn’t always beautiful, but that can’t be said of hippeastrum (Amaryllis), the bulbs of which can be planted now in a decent-sized pot ready for early spring blooming. That is, of course, unless you’ve done the deed already and have a plant just about to bloom for Christmas.

Whatever... it’s always best to use a compost containing slow-release fertiliser because although the bulb already contains a miniature flower stem for this winter’s display, long-term feeding will help it regenerate that flower during the summer months when leaves are replenishing the strength of the bulb.

In general, only a large bulb will put up more than one flower spike but this depends on the cultivar itself; some smaller bulbs have two while some larger bulbs make only one.

A bulb must produce at least four large, healthy leaves in the summer growing season before it can send up a spike the following year. Some bulbs put up two at the same time; others may wait several weeks between blooms and sometimes the second spike will have only two or three flowers rather than the usual four.

Dutch bulbs usually produce flowers first, then, after they have finished blooming, the plants will begin growing leaves. Bulbs from the South African growers usually put up a spike and leaves at the same time.

Flower colours include red, rose, pink, white, orange, yellow, and pale green with variations on these including different coloured stripes and edges on the petals.

Some flowers have uniform colours or patterns on all six petals while others have more pronounced colours on the upper petals than on the lower ones.

There are five types: Single flower, double flower, miniature, cybister and trumpet.

Cybisters have extremely thin petals and are often described as spider-like.Grow them the same way you’d grow an ordinary amaryllis – plant the bulb so that its ‘shoulders’ are clear of the compost, and the ‘nose’ of the bulb is above the rim of the pot.

Put it in a bright place, and don’t overwater. Turn the pot to keep the stalk from leaning into the light. Once it blooms, keep it well watered and out of direct sun.

Trumpets, as the name suggests, have flared, tube-shaped flowers. Single, double, and miniature bulbs are the ones typically sold by nurseries and shops as presents for Christmas and Easter.