Can a Hippeastrum be persuaded to flower in our cave-like house?

At the beginning of 2014, I was handed a Hippeastrum bulb (often called Amaryllis) and asked to plant it in an Oxford garden. Hippeastrums are tender, originating in tropical and sub-tropical South America, and would die outside so I offered to take it home with me instead to see if I could get it to flower again and this was agreed on.

Once home, I planted it with the top third of the bulb showing in a pot that allowed about 2.5cm of space between the bulb and the pot edge, as Hippeastrums prefer to be snug. The compost contained loam, for better drainage. The two limp leaves were supported against nearby plants so they didn’t droop any more and could get the sun. This done, it was given enough water to moisten the compost but not drench it, then set on a sunny windowsill.

amaryllis_may_7May 7 – the first new leaves

I wasn’t especially optimistic, and not sure that I even liked Hippeastrum, but I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of giving a plant a new lease on life so this became a new project. The bulb had sat in a container with no drainage and was water-logged. It had two or three small roots and a one small, limp leaf, but plants want to grow and the bulb didn’t disappoint for within a couple of weeks it had put up a new leaf and more followed. The pot was turned twice a day so it got even sunlight.

amaryllis_june_17June 17 – looking happy

 By June, six firm green leaves arched from the bulb and the weather had warmed sufficiently that I felt confident enough for it spend the summer in the greenhouse, where it would live with other plants in the warm and humid environment that tropical plants prefer. Apart from keeping it watered and feeding it occasionally, I left it alone until the nights cooled in September and then it came indoors again and we went back to the turning twice a day routine.

Over the cool, dark winter months, the leaves gradually turned yellow and wilted and I cut them off until all were gone and then I let the bulb dry out for a few weeks. At the start of January, it was time to wake it up again but there is little light in January in the UK, and this house seldom reaches temperatures of over 20C, so I watered the pot and set it under a bright desk lamp where, after a few weeks, a tiny sliver of green emerged from the bulb and then another until it had four new leaves. By now, it was too big to live under the desk lamp so I moved it to a windowsill again.

In February, another green shoot pushed out of the bulb alongside the leaves and it was with some excitement that I realised it was a flowering stem. This event prompted me to move the pot from room to room twice a day, to make full use of warmth and daylight. Very slowly, the stem lengthened and the flowering bud swelled. We were due to visit family in the middle of March and flowering looked imminent, but our house tends to be rather cool and gloomy, so it came with us and spent a sunny long weekend on a windowsill in Hampshire.

amaryllis_0310March 10 – photographed outside because it wasn’t light enough indoors

amaryllis_0319March 19

amaryllis_0321March 21

Back at home, over the next ten days, it suddenly put on a spurt of growth and finally I was rewarded with two huge trumpet-shaped blooms in the most glorious rich red-orange and another bud is swelling nicely.

amaryllis_0324March 24

It is a small but thrilling achievement and hopefully one to be repeated.

amaryllis_0325March 25

8 thoughts on “Can a Hippeastrum be persuaded to flower in our cave-like house?

  1. Oh my i think it was indeed WELL worth the time and i have to admit i am not easily impressed with Hippaestrum I didn’t think…. but i believe i have changed my mind. Gorgeous job and i loved the photography of it’s growth. Very beautiful and informative.

  2. Thank you, Wendy! I wasn’t impressed with Hippeastrum either, but this one is just too gorgeous to not love it.

    1. Thank you, Steve!

      Hasn’t it just – we are not used to such fabulous plants in this house, so it certainly makes a change!

  3. I had one for years and it grew into an impressive clump with several flower stems each year. I had a greenhouse then though so only had it indoors when it flowered. They’re not very decorative the rest of the time – though there are worse things a person could have on their windowsill.

    1. Nice one, Patsy.

      I wonder if the one I’ve got will grow into a big clump – that would be interesting and there are indeed far worse things to have on a windowsill!

    1. Thank you, Fossil!

      It’s opened another flower now, so I’m extra pleased.

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