Local lifestyle columnists

Hippeastrum: Countertop color to celebrate a new year

By From page D4 | January 05, 2014

Do you need a bright spot of indoor color now that your holiday decorations are packed away? Then consider a Hippeastrum bulb.

This simple-to-grow plant offers another option besides that leftover Poinsettia.

Commonly called an Amaryllis, the Hippeastrum is a popular gift item during the Christmas and Easter season. Yet it is not an Amaryllis at all. Instead, this indoor flowering bulb is actually a frost-intolerant tropical plant from South America that was placed into the same genus as the South African Amaryllis belladonna that grows outdoors. For details on the taxonomy of the genus and the centuries old nomenclature debate, visit www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippeastrum

Where to find and what to look for

In January, you’ll find Hippeastrum on sale in many big-box stores. But instead of searching the shelves for a potted plant, look for a bulb in a box complete with a plastic pot and compressed potting mix. Follow the package instructions, and within weeks you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular bloom fit for celebrating this new year.

Known for large ornamental flowers that encompass a color pallet from orange, salmon, red, pink to white, Hippeastrum hybrids are also available in pale greens and yellow in solids, multicolors, with mottling, stripes, and colored edges. They feature single or double flowers, dwarf or mammoth sizes, and various petal shapes such as thin spider-like flowers or trumpets with flared tube-shaped flowers. Hippeastrum is a favorite of gardeners who from experience know that the larger the bulb size, the more flower stems sprout and the bigger the blooms. However, these larger bulbs and the unusual shapes and color options mentioned above are more readily available from specialty nurseries and online retailers.

Five simple care tips

  1. Plant bulb in a pot slightly larger than the bulb itself.
  2. Use well-drained organic potting mix.
  3. Bury only one-third of the bulb. Leave the other two-thirds visible above the soil.
  4. Place pot in well-lit location; next to a window is ideal. 
  5. Maintain consistent moisture. Note that over watering rots roots and bulb.

Launa Herrmann is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.

Launa Herrmann


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