Herbertia (1943)
Notes on Amaryllis
L. S. Hannibal


Amaryllis solandriflora var. conspicua. Photo by L.S. Hannibal
From time to time, like most collectors, the writer has added various species and hybrid Amaryllis to his collection, but the San Francisco area cannot be considered as subtropical, being 200 miles North of the citrus belt, thus all specimens do not prove up entirely satisfactorily. In some cases outdoor plantings are possible, but normally an unheated glass house is required. Even here sub-tropical species such as Amaryllis rutila and the varieties fulgida and crocata seldom bloom, and trouble from bulb rot is often experienced during the cool moist winters. However, seedlings of the latter species which were raised from seed imported from Sao Paulo are hardier and seem more promising. Hybrids such as the Garfieldii hybrids and a Hayward Dutchwhite X fulgida also seem to require warmer and drier winter conditions. So far they have been shy bloomers, but the crocata blood in the Garfieldii hybrids tends to induce a production of numerous offsets—perhaps sufficient bloom can be obtained by sheer mass of bulb population.

In contrast A. aulica var. major does well here and seems quite at home. Its stiff rigid bloom is quite striking when it occasionally flowers during early spring. The smaller variety robusta is either a very shy bloomer or else it desires a warmer latitude, as I recall it has been reported as doing well in Florida. Hybrids of A. aulica flower easily, but the bloom are of little value due to excessive green in the throat.

Amaryllis Johnsonii is also quite hardy and will do well in outdoor locations, even in heavy clay soils. Last year the writer imported several A. reginae bulbs from Austin Smith of Costa Rica. These turned out to be very hardy, and very similar to Johnsonii, the only distinction being that the stigma lobes are slightly longer and the flowers appreciably fragrant. The bulbs seem stoloniferous when planted deep. Could this be a Johnsonii variation?

Amaryllis belladonna Linn. (syn. Hippeastrum equestre Herb.) from Florida and Cuba is another that objects to wet conditions in the winter, but as this species is very variable in source and form, it has not been difficult to locate a few hardy specimens; even so members of this group seem to be shy bloomers for this area.

Amaryllis solandriflora var. conspicua (See Fig. 106) does fairly well in central California. The plant seems to be nearly sterile due to climatic conditions, but fortunately the writer succeeded in having one bloom take Johnsonii pollen. The half dozen seedlings which resulted seem quite hardy and show growth characteristics favoring one parent or the other.

Apparently Luther Burbank obtained some of Nehrling's fragrant Hybrid Amaryllis seedlings, and in turn hybrids of these were part of the foundation stock of Hermon Brown's beautiful, and fortunately very hardy strain. A number of these have the almond fragrance which is so characteristic of Solandriflora. Of the hybrids, those of Mr. Brown and the late Mr. Diener seem to be the hardiest here. Some of the types such as the Mead strain, which do so well in Florida, find our wet winters and dry summers, (with the hot days and cold nights) anything but favorable.

Amaryllis psittacina and the variety decorata seem fairly hardy and grow quite readily, but rarely bloom. The same applies to A. solandriflora var. candida. These are all warm climate plants, and all require glass the year round, although such is not the case further south.

In 1941 Herbertia Dr. Traub asked for information on the linear leaved, small-flowered Amaryllis such as Amaryllis advena var. miniatus which is extremely hardy. Amaryllis pratense is likewise quite hardy, in fact it has been reported resistant to 12 degrees F. and grows best when Narcissus culture is used in a well drained sandy soil. Summer heat checks all growth.

Amaryllis bicolor comes from northern Chile where temperatures range from 70 to 90 degrees F. the year around. It has not been a success as it needs too much heat, as well as a well drained, nearly dry, sandy soil. The same applies to a small yellow-orange variety that came from Dr. Reed's collection at Valparaiso [See Plant Hunters of the Andes. T. H. Goodspeed (1941)]. The writer also has one or two other linear-leaved specimens that have not been identified as yet, but they do seem hardy.

At best one can expect the most promising results in this group to come from material that is found in Southern Chile, or the high mountains. Due to little seasonal change in temperatures any material from Valparaiso, or north of there, is likely to be found quite temperamental in growth habits, and as any collector will soon learn when he deals with amaryllids of natural environment can't be approximately duplicated one is likely to come out on the bad end of the deal.

To obtain flowers from reluctant bulbs often requires more than a general knowledge of the bulb's growth requirements. Often somewhat previous to a bulb's normal flowering period a dormancy or rest period is essential, which represents the formative period for the bud and future foliage development. Whether it be Narcissus, Hybrid Amaryllis, Nerine, or a score of other well known genera the same generalities apply a prolonged rest period in the specific temperature range, as desired by the bulb in question, is most effective in promoting early growth, and rest period in the proper season when temperature and humidity conditions, especially the former, approach the range which is normal to the requirements of final bud development, will lead to flowering. Many species will tolerate a longer than normal rest period and produce very fine bloom, but few deciduous bulbs will respond with flowers if the rest period is shortened, or if temperatures drop much below the bulb's accustomed range, for in either case proper bud formation cannot take place and we usually have no bloom at all, or a very poor aborted bloom.

Root disturbance can be cited as another reason for poor flowering response. Many bulb species, even if they appear dormant, often continue active root growth while top growth is absent. We can only surmise that bud development is affected by root destruction, not with species, but often enough to make it desirable to avoid as much root disturbance as is possible during transplanting time. There are other factors such as the red rust, bulb fly, poor drainage, etc. which check bloom by bulb destruction; however, these secondary effects are usually overcome by proper culture for normal plant development. It is the failure to understand, or to provide proper conditions which gets the collector "down" when a bulb fails, for success depends upon providing the proper environment.