Not everyone knows that the indoor amaryllis is most often a hippeastrum. In culture, amaryllis is represented by a single species: Amaryllis beautiful. But the similar and related hippeastrum, or one of its hybrids, is grown in the home.
The first hybrid hippeastrum appeared in 1799, and since then, breeding work on the development of new varieties of this popular indoor plant has not stopped.
From our article you will learn:
- what conditions and what kind of care the hippeastrum needs;
- How to propagate the hippeastrum;
- how to make the hippeastrum bloom;
- How to prepare the plant for the dormancy period.
Planting and care of hippeastrums
- Flowering: August-September.
- Lighting: bright diffused light (south, southwest or southeast windows).
- Temperature: 17-25 ˚C.
- Watering: sparingly at the beginning of vegetation, plentiful but not excessive watering from the appearance of the flower stalks to the beginning of flowering. We recommend to use the method of bottom watering.
- Humidity: normal for living areas.
- Feeding: From the beginning of vegetation – once every two weeks with liquid mineral fertilizers for deciduous plants, and from the moment when the flower stalks appear – in the same mode, but with mineral fertilizer solutions for flowering plants.
- Resting period: from October to January.
- Replanting: once every 3-4 years after flowering or before the beginning of vegetation.
- Propagation: by seeds, young plants and bulb division.
- Pests: scale-insects, aphids, spider mites, mealybugs.
- Diseases: peronosporosis, scald fungus, red rot.
Hippeastrum belongs to the Amaryllis family. There are about 90 species of hippeastrum. The name of the flower consists of two ancient Greek roots, meaning “rider” and “star”. Hippeastrum is often confused with amaryllis, but one should know that amaryllis beautiful (the only representative of the genus) grows in nature in southern Africa, while hippeastrum grows in the tropics and subtropics of America, in particular in the Amazon basin. Amaryllis and hippeastrum are relatives belonging to the same botanical family, but representing different genera. The hippeastrum was imported to Europe in the 16th century, and in 1799 the first hybrid plant, Johnson’s hippeastrum, appeared.
Features of the flower
Hippeastrum flowers are bulbous perennials. The round, sometimes conical bulb of the hippeastrum consists of a short, thick stem and closed scales. The bulbs vary in size from 5 cm to 10 cm across, depending on the species. At the base (bottom) of the bulb is a bundle of cord-like roots. Hippeastrum leaves are linear, grooved on the surface, keeled from below, 50-70 cm long and 4-5 cm wide, arranged in two opposite rows. Some varieties have leaves that may be painted purple, but they’re mostly green. An umbrella-like inflorescence of 2-6 sterile flowers, 13-15 cm long and up to 25 cm in diameter, is formed on a cylindrical, hollow, leafless pedicel 35-80 cm tall. Flowers, funnel-shaped or tubular, are arranged on long petioles, and the color of the flowers is varied: dark red, bright red, orange, pink, white, etc. The fruit is a tricuspid capsule, globular or angular, in which the small seeds of hippeastrum mature. The germination of freshly harvested seeds is almost one hundred percent.
The domestic hippeastrum has several features to consider if you decide to grow it:
- varieties with light and white flowers produce few complete seeds;
- in summertime, hippeastrums are best kept in the garden by burying them in the ground;
- the timing of flowering of the hippeastrum can be adjusted, timing it to certain dates – this is very convenient, considering that a blooming hippeastrum is a wonderful gift, replacing an expensive exquisite bouquet;
- each hippeastrum flower lasts only ten days;
- Only large bulbs with a large accumulation of nutrients should be used.
Home care for hippeastrums
Keep the hippeastrum in a well-lit place, best of all in a southern, southeastern or southwestern window sill, covering the flower from direct sunlight and turning from time to time around its axis to keep it compact in shape. A temperature of 17 ºC to 25 ºC is preferable during the period of active growth. As already mentioned, hippeastrum feels great outdoors in the summertime, but you will have to arrange it in nature so that it does not suffer from overwatering.
At the beginning of the vegetation period water the hippeastrum very sparingly, gradually increasing the watering only from the moment the flower stalks appear – the signal that the plant has started its vegetation period. As the flower arrow grows and before flowering begins, watering should become abundant, but nevertheless moderate, so that the soil in the vase was moist, not wet.
It is best to perform bottom watering or watering from a tray, gradually adding warm water until the ground lump is soaked. Avoid getting water on the bulb.
After flowering, watering is also gradually reduced until the complete cessation.
When the flower stalk of the hippeastrum reaches 12-15 cm in height, water the soil with a pale pink solution of manganese, and in 4-6 days feed the plant with phosphorus fertilizer. In general, you feed the hippeastrum twice a month at the beginning of the growing season with a liquid mineral fertiliser for deciduous plants and, after the leaves have grown and for better flowering, with fertiliser for flowering plants in the same way. Make sure that the concentration of minerals is not too high or you will burn the roots instead of fertilising the plant.
Don’t forget to dust the leaves under a warm shower or to wipe them down regularly with a damp sponge.
Transplant the hippeastrum every three to four years before or after its dormancy period. It is very important to choose the right pot for the flower: the distance from the bulb to the wall of the pot should not be more than 2 cm. The soil should be about this composition: two parts perlite (or coarse sand), leaf and sod soil and one part humus. The soil should be sterilized before use. Do not forget about the drainage layer as well. Planting the hippeastrum is done by the method of transplanting, in order to cause as little damage as possible to the root system of the plant. The bulb is placed in the soil so that at least a third of it is above the surface.
Propagating a Hippeastrum
Hippeastrums can be propagated by seed and vegetative propagation. It is best to sow seeds as soon as they are harvested, as long as they are 100 percent germinating. If the seeds are allowed to dry out, however, the ability to germinate becomes only thirty percent. Actually, sowing seeds is a simple, routine procedure, so there is no point in telling about it, especially since the seed method can only be applied if there are seeds, and they can appear if you engage in artificial pollination of the flower.
It is much easier to carry out propagation by vegetative means, namely, by separating hippeastrum offspring from the mother bulb. This is done during transplanting. Separated with a sterile sharp tool baby, having treated the cuts on it with crushed charcoal, planted in a separate pot and two years do not deprive the young plant leaves even in the dormant period.
There is another way of vegetative propagation of the hippeastrum – dividing the bulb. It is carried out in November, when the bulb contains the maximum amount of nutrients. Remove the top layer of substrate so that only the bottom part of the bulb remains in the soil. Remove the outer dry scales. Cut off the leaves, taking some of the top part of the bulb. Cut the bulb vertically into four equal portions so that the cuts reach the surface of the substrate, insert plastic or wooden spokes with a diameter of 5-6 cm vertically into the cuts so that the bulb parts do not clamp together. Take care of the bulb as an adult plant and do not allow the substrate to dry out. As soon as the leaves appear, fertilize and continue to fertilize according to the usual schedule. In the spring of the next year, divide the bulb and transplant the parts into individual vases.
The hippeastrum’s dormancy period is from September to January. If your plant spent its summer vacation in the yard, it’s time to bring it inside by early fall. At the same time, begin to gradually reduce watering, which will cause the plant’s leaves to wither. Once the leaves have completely dried, they fall off on their own and the stem is cut off, so they can be moved to a dark, dry room, put on their side and kept at 6-12ºC for six to eight weeks without watering until they are ready to be woken up.
How to make a hippeastrum bloom
To make sure the hippeastrum blooms for sure, there are a few flowering tricks we’re willing to share.
- Firstly, you can submerge the bulbs in 43-45ºC hot water for three hours before planting. After this temperature extreme, the plant blooms in three weeks.
- The second method of action: Stop watering the plant from August, move it to a dry, dark place and keep it there until the end of January, then resume watering. After a month to a month and a half you can enjoy the blooming of the hippeastrum.
- And a third way of persuasion: cut off all the leaves of the hippeastrum in July and don’t water it for a month, but introduce a liquid compound fertilizer with the first watering (to avoid burning, moisten through the soil first, then introduce the fertilizer).
In August or September, your hippeastrum will bloom like a darling.
The hippeastrum doesn’t bloom – why?
Sometimes this happens due to a lack of nutrients, because the hippeastrum is a voracious plant, and the soil in the pot is not much, so it quickly depletes. For this reason, feeding should be sufficient and regular, as well as watering.
Hippeastrum does not bloom and when the soil is overwatered, when the bulb begins to rot.
Hippeastrum after flowering
Once the flowering is over, the plant should be prepared for rest, because the quality and timeliness of the next flowering directly depends on how properly you prepare the hippeastrum for the resting period. In the middle of September the watering is stopped completely, and after the leaves have fallen and the withered flower stalks are cut off the plant is placed in a dark, dry room with a low temperature, where the hippeastrum will stay until the end of January or beginning of February. Then the pot with the bulb is placed in a well-lit place, the watering and feeding resumes and the next period of active growth of the hippeastrum starts.
The most common problems in growing hippeastrums are red rot, false powdery mildew and red scald fungus. And, of course, the above-mentioned pests – scale, aphids, worms and spider mites, which are destroyed by special insecticides. Determine what the plant is sick with by the way the hippeastrum looks.
If there are red spots on the leaves and bulb, then it is a fungal burn, if a white coating – it is powdery mildew, and if the leaves hang sluggishly, and on the scales of the bulb you can see the rot, then it is rot and is. If there are signs of rot, remove all affected areas, diseased roots, dry the bulb, and just before planting in a new sterile substrate, etch the bulb with Fundazole.
From powdery mildew are saved by special preparations available on the market. And red burns are eliminated by removing the bulb from the ground and cutting out all foci to healthy tissue. Then the wounds are sprinkled with a mixture of chalk and copper sulfate in accordance with 20:1 and dry the bulb for a week, then planted in a fresh substrate, pre-treated with fungicides.
- Why does a hippeastrum have a dried out flower stalk?
If this problem occurs not the first year, you need to look for the cause in the conditions of maintenance. This can be due to lack of nutrition, poor lighting, improper temperature control, insufficient humidity or incomplete dormancy period. Refresh your memory on the rules of plant care and find where you went wrong. As a last resort, try to force the hippeastrum out.
- The hippeastrum has viral mosaic – what to do?
If your hippeastrum leaves are not uniformly colored, but mosaic-like spots of different shades of green, this may be a consequence of oversaturation of the soil with fertilizer. But it is quite possible that the flower is affected by a viral disease. How does the virus get on the plant?
You might have gotten an infected bulb.
You might have infected the plant yourself with a non-sterile instrument.
You might have gotten it on the plant through pollination.
Insects could have carried the virus.
The problem is that on annual crops, the virus manifests itself quickly, but on hippeastrum you may not notice it for several years. Unfortunately, treating a viral disease is useless. However, even if you are sure that your plant is infected with any type of mosaic, don’t rush to get rid of it, because you can still enjoy its blooming for a long time. Just keep the hippeastrum away from other plants when tending, protect your hands with gloves, and sterilize your tools after handling the flower.
- How do I grow hippeastrums in coco-coaster?
Usually, coconut substrate is added to turf soil to improve drainage qualities, but successful cases of growing hippeastrum in pure coconut soil are known as well.
In such a substrate, the hippeastrum grows its roots intensively. Besides, the plant does not need such frequent watering as with standard amaryllis soil: the flower is watered once a week, but not with clear water but with solution of fertilizers, since the substrate does not contain nutrients.
It is very important that the substrate when watering is fully saturated with moisture. If the substrate dries out, you need to restore its moisture by immersing the pot for a while in a container of water. Then you need to let the excess water drain off and only then put the pot back on the pallet.
Buy coco-ground only from a well-established manufacturer on the market: the substrate must be low in salts, and it must contain the useful fungus Trichoderma.
- Why does a flowering hippeastrum have a shriveled bulb?
Some readers are concerned that a hippeastrum that has released a flowering stem has a shriveled bulb. The fact is that when the flower arrow comes out, a void is formed in the bulb. This is a normal phenomenon. If you apply timely fertilizers, the roots will develop intensively, nourishing the bulb, which will restore density after flowering. Not only that, it will have rounded sides, and it will increase in volume.
- Why did the hippeastrum bulb burst?
A hippeastrum bulb most often bursts from uneven watering or irregular application of fertilizer. Powder the crack with crushed charcoal and avoid getting water on it.
The scales may burst because of intense bulb growth. Sometimes it happens because the baby bulb begins to break through the scales. In any case, there is no need to remove the burst scales, they will eventually dry out on their own and come off.
Worse, if the cause is a disease. Carefully inspect the bulb, and only if other symptoms of the disease are found, take care of the treatment.
- How to achieve hippeastrum stability?
It often happens that the powerful arrows of the hippeastrum with heavy inflorescences begin to lean the pot on its side, and it turns over. To prevent this from happening, you can cut off the flower stems at the base and place them in a vase of water. It should be said that the arrows of a hippeastrum with gradually opening flowers can stand in a vase for quite a long time.
If you don’t want to do this, you can tie up the arrows or install a support in the pot in the form of a spire with a spiral at the end, into which it is easy to get both the flowering stem and the leaves of the plant. It is best to look for such supports on the Internet. They can be suitable not only for hippeastrums.
- How to speed up the growth of the flower arrow of the hippeastrum?
Sometimes it happens that the flower stalk of the hippeastrum has not yet reached its normal length, but the buds have already appeared on it. This can be due to improper storage of the bulb, too short rest periods, improper resting conditions or a lack of nutrients in the substrate.
To make the flower shoots grow faster, you should put the hippeastrum in a warm place, limit its access to light and water the potting soil with warm water. Make a tent out of thick paper and cover the flower stems with it. Water in small quantities.
- At what point can I separate the daughter bulbs from the hippeastrum?
For some bulbs (eucharis, clivia), the offspring may not be separated for quite a long time. The daughter bulbs do not bother these flowers too much, but during flowering the pot looks like a flowerbed. With hippeastrum it’s a different story: the daughter bulb weakens the mother bulb greatly and negatively affects its flowering.
If a hippeastrum bulb has a baby, wait until it has developed roots and a couple of leaves. A hasty detachment may result in the daughter bulb taking a long time to root and become ill, or it may even die.
The procedure is usually done during a hippeastrum transplant: if the offspring is strong enough, separate it, but if not, it is better to transplant the mother bulb into fresh soil together with the daughter bulb. The offspring will grow over the next cycle, and after the resting period, you can take it away.
- The hippeastrum leaves do not wilt after flowering – what to do?
During flowering, the bulb of the hippeastrum decreases in volume, its upper scales become flaccid and wrinkled. It will take 2-3 months for the plant to regain its strength and replenish its nutrients. Cut off the flower stems at a height of 10 cm, and when the rest of the flower stalks have dried out, twist them out as well. Continue to water and feed the hippeastrum at least twice a month.
In September/October, the leaves of the hippeastrum usually begin to turn yellow and wilt. However, in some hybrid varieties, the leaves remain green. Do not let this worry you. Prepare it for its resting period as you would normally do: cut its watering to a minimum, stop feeding it and place it in a cool place. There’s nothing wrong if the hippeastrum goes to rest with its leaves.
- How do I wake up a dormant hippeastrum?
If your hippeastrum does not show any sign of life at the end of its dormancy period, help it awaken: place the pot with the plant in a jar of warm water at 40-45 ⁰C to warm up the soil in the pot, and then place it under a not very bright, diffused light. If you place the hippeastrum under bright light, it will start to produce leaves and will not hurry up to form flower stems. It is not necessary to water and feed the hippeastrum until the arrow appears.
- The hippeastrum bulb has no roots – what to do?
If the hippeastrum bulb is healthy but has no roots, help it grow them back. Place the base of the bulb in water (just the base, not the bulb itself) and put it in a warm place. As soon as the roots begin to grow, transplant the hippeastrum into the ground. You could plant the bulb in moist substrate right away, but this way you will not be able to see if its roots are growing. Rooting requires heat and a moist (but not wet) environment.
- Read about the subject on Wikipedia
- Features and other plants of the Amaryllis family
- All Species List at The Plant List
- More information at World Flora Online