Hippeastrums are admired for their exotic, large, trumpet-shaped flowers with wide recurving petals atop tall stems bearing blooms in white, pink, orange, salmon, dark red, yellow, green, and lilac, with some displaying contrasting colours at the throat and others striped or bi-coloured.
Petal textures vary with type; some are smooth and others crepe-like.
The trumpet shape also differs with type with some long and drooping while others are very large with rounded broad petals curling back.
Most Hippeastrums have a delicate fragrance and all are excellent as cut flowers.
The Hippeastrum is native to South America and was introduced into Europe in the late 17th century with more species discovered in Brazil and Peru some time later in the 18th century.
In recent times Hippeastrum Sonatini hybrids were developed in South Africa to survive all climates from the tropical heat down to a chilling -15 Celsius.
Although relatively new to Australia these compact hybrid Hippeastrums are fast becoming very popular being smaller but producing multiple stems with more flowers than other Hippeastrums.
Some outstanding varieties of Hippeastrum Sonatini include Marrakech, a beautiful pale creamy lemon with a deep green throat; H. Amico with striking red blooms; H. Swan Lake a classic white; H. Eye Catcher has vivid red flowers with a white centre and lime green throat; H. Pink Rascal multiplies quickly with flowers of the most delicate shade of pink with seven to eight blooms per stem; H. Balentino with exquisite dark red blooms with a white star in the centre and the stunning H. Dragon Fly a white, semi-double blushed green with red streaking.
In the open garden Hippeastrum bulbs are usually planted in July or August in a sunny position in humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil.
'Hippies' make an impressive display planted as borders, in pots, mass beds or in rockeries.
When grown in pots the top half of the bulb should be set above soil level as the bulb needs to bake in the sun.
Hippeastrums flower better if slightly pot-bound and greatly resent being disturbed, so only repot when necessary.
Water sparingly to keep the soil slightly moist, do not soak, then when the flower bud appears water twice a week.
After flowering reduce watering to just keep the soil moist. In early spring established plants can have the top few centimetres of mix removed and replaced with fresh.
It is easy to see why the majestic Hippeastrum is often described as 'the king of lilies'.
A useful little plant for shady areas is Tricyrtis stolonifera belonging to the genus of flowering plants in the Lily family commonly known as toad lilies.
These herbaceous perennials produce small, waxy, star-shaped white flowers with heavy reddish/purple spotting and yellow throats.
Plant bulbs in humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil in light shade and they will quickly grow into a spreading clump.
Plants may be divided when dormant or you can remove a few offsets from the side of well-established clumps.
The genus name Tricyrtis is derived from the Greek 'tri' for three and 'kyrtos' meaning humped as the bases of the three outer petals are swollen.
July 20: Australian Plants Society Tasmania meeting, Max Fry Hall, Gorge Road, Trevallyn, 7.30pm. This is a club night where members present on Plant Families
July 21: Launceston Horticultural Society meeting, Windmill Hill Hall, High Street, 7.30pm. Romain Elnick, President of the Orchid Society, is guest speaker. Visitors welcome.
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