Although their large trumpet-shaped blooms are a familiar display during the Christmas holiday season, Dutch hybrid amaryllises (Hippeastrum hybrids) are easy-to-grow bulbs that bloom naturally outdoors from mid-May to early June. Except for gardeners in the Mountains, these amaryllises will come back for the rest of us year-after-year.
Growing amaryllises outdoors is fairly easy. Select a well-drained location in full or partial sun and plant the neck of the bulb where the leaves emerge about 2 to 4 inches below the soil surface. Follow-up with a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch to conserve moisture and suppress weak growth. In subsequent years, apply a slow-release fertilizer in the spring, if necessary, when the new leaves emerge.
I grow the Dutch hybrids to impress my friends. I grow another amaryllis for me. St. Joseph’s lily (H. x johnsonii) was hybridized in the late 1700s by an English watchmaker named Arthur Johnson. The flowers are deep red with white stripes, and only a half-hand in diameter. They also have a spicy fragrance. Unlike the single-stem
med Dutch hybrids, St. Joseph’s lily can produce as many as four stems per bulb bearing 4 to 6 flowers on each stem.
St. Joseph’s lilies thrive with little care, which is part of their appeal. They enjoy our hot unforgiving summers and are indifferent about being watered during the growing season. Every year I’ve been rewarded with dazzling red flowers from these old-timey happy-go-lucky bulbs.
Like my Mom told me years ago, newer isn’t always better. How right she was. Mother’s are never wrong.
Bob Polomski © 2016