amaryllis

Value and dramatic show make these tropical bulb flowers consumer favorites.

name calling 
“Amaryllis” and “Barbados lily” are the common names for these striking trumpet-shaped flowers, which are known botanically as Hippeastrum (hip-ee-AS-trum).

relatively speaking
Hippeastrum is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. Close relatives include Alstroemeria, Nerine, Narcissus, Eucharis, Vallota and Clivia, among others.

home sweet home
Amaryllises are native to the Caribbean region and to tropical and subtropical South America (Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina).

take a look
Amaryllises’ showy blooms range from 3 to 8 inches in diameter. There are generally three to five blooms atop each stem. Blooms can be single flowered, with six “petals”; double flowered, with 12; or triple flowered, with 18. Some new hybrids have narrower petals, giving the blooms a spidery, or lilylike, appearance.

hues and news
These bulb flowers are available in both solid colors and bicolors (usually striped or mottled), in a palette that comprises reds, from pink to burgundy; red-orange; orange; salmon/peach/apricot; and white, as well as new yellow and yellow-green varieties.

summer break
Because of new varieties and global markets, cut amaryllises are available almost year-round; however, peak commercial production occurs from around October through March or April. Prices can vary greatly depending on source and time of year.

life goes on
Amaryllises can last eight to 14 days, depending on variety and care, with individual blooms lasting two to five days each.

buy-buy
Look for stems with puffy, undamaged buds that are just showing color. One or two buds can be just starting to open. Avoid stems with mold, rot or brown spots on the blossoms or stems.

deadly gas
Amaryllises are extremely sensitive to ethylene, so make sure the flowers you purchase have been treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during transportation. Buy only from a grower or supplier whose veracity you can trust.

take care
Immediately remove amaryllises from the shipping boxes, and check flower quality. Recut the stems, on an angle, with a sharp knife, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution, then place them into containers with 4 to 6 inches of properly proportioned room-temperature bulb-flower-food solution.

warm blooded
Because amaryllises are tropical bulb flowers, they prefer refrigeration at temperatures between 41 F and 50 F. Allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling them. If open blooms are needed quickly, store these flowers out of the cooler, at room temperature.

split ends
Amaryllis stem ends are prone to splitting and curling; however, some research suggests this can be reduced by placing the stems into a sugar solution (made with 2 tablespoons of sugar per quart of water) for 24 hours prior to sale or use. Some florists also wrap the bases of the stems with waterproof tape to prevent the problems.

do no harm
Some florists claim to improve the lasting quality of amaryllises by searing stem ends with a flame or dipping them into boiling water for several seconds. Avoid these actions; there is no scientific data that substantiate these claims, and these actions can damage the flower stems.

the vase debate
Some florists argue that amaryllises are most successfully used in vase arrangements—without floral foam. However, if you wish to arrange these flowers in floral foam, invert the flowers, fill the hollow stems with water, insert two plant stakes into each stem to extend beyond the end of each stem, and plug the stem ends with cotton. Then, wrap the outside of stem ends with waterproof tape to prevent them from splitting. Finally, turn the flowers upright, and place them into designs, before any other flowers or foliages, by inserting the stakes into the floral foam and bringing the stem ends into contact with the wet floral foam.

on the homefront
Instruct customers to recut the stems and to change the vase solution every other day using the bulb-flower nutrient you provide. Also advise them to cut off blooms as they fade, to carefully remove pollen-bearing anthers as soon as blooms open, and to keep the flowers out of direct sunlight and warm and cold drafts.

can’t stomach it
All parts of these bulb flowers can cause minor illness, if ingested, so keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

let’s get literal
Hippeastrum” is said to derive from the Greek words hippos, for horse, and astron, for star, because the blooms once were considered to resemble a horse’s head, at a certain stage in their opening, and because of the star-shaped form of the open flowers.



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