Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) in Bloom – or Not – it must be February
This year’s first to flower, a Butterfly (Hippeastrum papilio), opened about a week ago.
There are 5 more – 2 papilios and 3 Giant Dutch Hybrids – in various stages of budded up. Also, par for the course, we have 4 in healthy-but-not-promising mode; 1 pot of 3 robust papilios that has “wait ‘till summer” written all over it and 6 bulbs that have refused to green up well and will not be with us much longer.
They may be harboring bulb fly or simply be discouraged by last year’s cold dark spring.( It didn’t get warm and bright enough for them to grow until it was almost time for them to stop.) On the good side, they’ve underlined a lesson I probably should have absorbed some time ago.
None of the unhappy ones are papilios and only one of the budded-ups is a carried over Dutch job (the other 2 are new this year). In fairness, this has been an unusually poor year for the giants, but I’ve about decided to admit reality; start saving only the butterflies and thus free up a whole bunch of window and garden space: H. papilio is clearly a more willing species than the standard.
In addition to being tough, papilios are low- hassle, because they’re more or less evergreen. Although old leaves turn yellow and die eventually, new ones are always being made. There are no worries about when to stop watering, whether to cut off leaves that still look healthy or any of that. Butterflies don’t need (or want) the usual dry down/leave dormant/wake up cycle. You just give them as much warmth and sun as you can and fertilize as indicated by how much warmth and sun that is – the more the more is close enough.
Added benefit: instead of the dramatic but rather fake-looking naked stem with giant flower rising context-free from the pot, you have a naked stem with giant flower growing dramatically from a leaf-cradle that is itself no slouch.
Slight inconvenience: Butterfly amaryllis bloom sporadically year round. Flowering is most common when most needed, in late winter and early spring, but you can’t count on it. And dramatic as they are they can get kind of lost in high summer when everything else is blooming. I’ve tried nestling the pots among perennials, but they look much better isolated in a patch of hardscape. Last time I had a pot of summer bloomers I put it on a pedestal on the porch, where it looked surprisingly classy, and that’s what I’ll do with this batch – if they do indeed bloom before next fall which they very well may not.
Philosophical note: No matter the species, amaryllis are always on their own schedules, sometimes blooming by the Solstice holidays, sometimes holding out until Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Nor do they always follow The Amaryllis Rule: If there are at least 6 leaves after blooming the bulb will bloom again the following year. My own feeling is that amaryllis were placed on this earth to keep garden writers from getting too full of themselves.