Pronounced AMMA-rillis, Amaryllis is sometimes called Hippeastrum, which means knight star, or horseman star.
Amaryllis have large flamboyant starry trumpets which spring from huge papery bulbs. Thick smooth leafless stems, often more than half a metre tall, are topped by four or five of these outsize blooms, making an impressive display which brightens up any dark corner of a room, especially in winter. The flowers can be as large as 15cm/6in and the stems 30-50cm (1-2ft).
South and Central America and the Caribbean
Available in 15 different colours, you’re sure to find an amaryllis that fits your style - perfectly. Pure white, pillarbox red, candy pink, peach. There are also striped varieties and ones with frilled or coloured edges to the petals.
The main season is September to April.
Amaryllidaceae, amaryllis family
There are today many countless varieties. Some are slightly scented, particularly the white flowers. Popular varieties are 'Red Lion' (red) and 'Orange Souvereign' (dark orange). An example with a sweet fragrant is the 'Apple Blossom' in tones of pink and white. Other Christmas red varieties include "Liberty” and "Hercules".
As cut flowers
The flowerheads are often so large the stems cannot support them. Insert a thin stick inside the hollow stem for support. Buy Amaryllis when still in bud so you can transport them without damaging the flowers. The meaty stalk of an Amaryllis sucks up a lot of water, which means the flowers have a water supply within the stalk. This means you can use the Amaryllis as a dry decoration for a limited period. A few stems with fully blown flowers can be placed on a dinner table, or hung upside down above the table, without becoming instantly limp.
As indoor plants
Keep at room temperature around 20 C (64 F) and a bright location. Water generously during the growing and flowering period, and feed monthly even after flowering. The amaryllis usually flowers 5-6 weeks after purchase provided it is given the right conditions.
When it finishes flowering, keep on watering and feeding the plant for about six weeks, then reduce the watering until in about September you are not watering at all. The leaves should die back during this period of their own accord. Put the plant somewhere dry and frost free; in the spring the bulb will put forth shoots. Then you should start watering and feeding again.
Amaryllis is associated with the star sign Aries, being flamboyantly red.
It was a popular woman's name in ancient Greece.
Although it contains poisonous substances it is perfectly safe to handle.
In the language of flowers, amaryllis means "splendid beauty" or "pride"