Amaryllis is the type genus for the family Amaryllidaceae. Although it is the common name used for hybrid hippeastrums which are found on the Hippeastrum Hybrids page, there are actually only two species in this genus and one of them was only recently discovered. Both are found in the winter rain area of South Africa.

Les Hannibal Hybrids 1-25 - Les Hannibal Hybrids 26-48 - x Amarcrinum - x Amarygia

Amaryllis belladonna, known to many as "Naked Ladies" because the flowers are pink to white and bloom before the leaves develop, is found in loamy soils in seasonally moist sites in the Cape Floral Province. It has a great variation in time of bloom, starting in summer and extending into fall. It has naturalized in many mediterranean climates throughout the world and is especially popular in California.

A second species, named Amaryllis paradisicola, was described in 1998. It is not in general cultivation. A short description and link to a photo can be found here.

Many people confuse Lycoris squamigera and Amaryllis belladonna because both bloom in the fall on bare stalks with no leaves, and both can have large pink flowers. You can see the differences on the Amaryllis belladonna versus Lycoris squamigera page.

There have been many discussions on the PBS list about how to get Amaryllis belladonna to bloom. Members living in Mediterranean climates are much more likely to get it to bloom. People have said the bulbs need to stick out of the ground and they have also said they need to be covered. Some summer water may help, but you also hear a dry dormancy is helpful. Plants in the ground bloom better than plants in pots and plants growing in the sun are much more likely to bloom than ones in the shade. One factor that influences blooming in the wild is fire. After a summer fire, there is usually good bloom in the fall in the wild. In September 2009 a restaurant burned to the ground in northern California denuding the slope below which was covered with low growing vegetation. Several weeks later spikes were appearing. It's hard to know when or if these bulbs were planted since the slope is steep and it would seem to be impossible to plant them. The photos from Mary Sue Ittner don't really capture how steep the slope is since I had to take the pictures with my zoom lens from the bottom. The third picture was taken the following month when more flowers were open. In 2012 the slope is now covered with non native weedy vegetation and the plants are no longer flowering.

Amaryllis belladonna after fire, Mary Sue IttnerAmaryllis belladonna after fire, Mary Sue IttnerAmaryllis belladonna after fire, Mary Sue Ittner

An article in Veld & Flora magazine described the plants' strong response to fire in the wild, and speculated that they bloom more frequently in cultivation because weeds are removed from around them. The article has been reproduced here.

The first photo by Bob Rutemoeller shows some in bloom September 2004 on the Mendocino coast in northern California. Photos 2-4 are by Nhu Nguyen. Photo #2 is from a yard in Berkeley, CA and #3 from the UC Botanical Garden showing these plants blooming dramatically en masse. The plants from the UC Botanical Garden bloomed in an early year in mid July, 2008. Photo #4 is a closeup. The last photo from Mary Sue Ittner is a close-up of one flower.

Amaryllis belladonna Mendocino Coast, Bob RutemoellerAmaryllis belladonna, Nhu NguyenAmaryllis belladonna, Nhu NguyenAmaryllis belladonna, Nhu NguyenAmaryllis belladonna, Mary Sue Ittner

Photographs by David Pilling, the first one is of (less than flowering size) bulbs four years after the seed was sown (the coin is about an inch in diameter), the second shows a flower emerging. Photos 3 and 4 are of commercially supplied bulbs of the white variety on a 10 mm grid.

Amaryllis belladonna bulbs, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna flower emerging, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna bulb, 15th October 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna bulb, 15th October 2013, David Pilling

I bought three bulbs on ebay, apparently a large clump was being dug up and I thought they might flower well if they had survived in someone's garden for some time; every piece of root had been removed from the bulbs and they took time to settle down, it was reasonable to put them all in an 8" pot. In 2012, a year with a spring and summer dark, cold and wet by even the demanding standards of the North of England, one bulb flowered in the middle of October (the bulbs had gone dormant in August). It came as a surprise to me that the flowers are fragrant.

In the first photo the top of the tape is 18" above the surface of the soil, the next photo shows how the flower colour changes (old flower on the left). Photo three is of unopened anthers, the next photo shows them in various stages of opening. The last two photos show the tip of the style and the style with with pollen applied.

Amaryllis belladonna, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna anthers, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna anthers, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna style, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna style with pollen, David Pilling

In 2013, two bulbs produced flowers. The photos below show detail from the tips of the flower petals. A question to the PBS list as to what these structures did and were called, brought forth a comprehensive reply from Dylan Hannon. They are called "cohering keels" and keep the flower closed until it has developed fully. The classic paper on the subject is "Cohering Keels in Amaryllids and Related Plants" by H. Harold Hume Proceedings of the Florida Academy of Sciences (1: 48-57, 1936). More photos can be seen for Nerine bowdenii.

Amaryllis belladonna petal tip, 29th September 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna petal tip, 29th September 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna petal tip, 30th September 2013, David PillingAmaryllis belladonna petal tip, 30th September 2013, David Pilling

Many Amaryllis selections have been made, and the species has also been hybridized very heavily with related genera for more than a century. To learn more about the history of some of these hybrids, read this conversation between David Sneddon and Jim Lykos, two Australian members of the PBS list. An example of these is xAmarcrinum, a hybrid between Amaryllis and Crinum. See also xAmarygia.

The late Les Hannibal was a longtime breeder of Amaryllis hybrids. Over a period of several decades, he tossed all of the excess seeds from his breeding program into the roughly one acre backyard of his home in Sacramento, California. The result was a sloping hill covered in many thousands of bulbs, scattered everywhere and even leaking into the neighbors' yards. When in bloom it was a remarkable sight, a kind of fairyland of bulbs. Shortly before his death, Mr. Hannibal permitted several people to collect bulbs from his yard. Photos and descriptions of some of those bulbs dug by Michael Mace can be found on Les Hannibal Hybrids 1-25 and Les Hannibal Hybrids 26-48.

Amaryllis hybrids generally range in color from pure white to pink to a mauve color that can look reddish in photos. The examples below give some idea of the range of colors and shapes.

White Amaryllis hybrid, Michael MacePale pink Amaryllis hybrid, Michael MaceLight pink Amaryllis hybrid, Michael MaceMid-pink Amaryllis hybrid, Michael MaceDark pink Amaryllis hybrid, Michael MacePink and mauve Amaryllis hybrids, Michael Mace

Amaryllis seeds also vary from dark pink to white, as shown by the photo below. They can also be variously veined and mottled. The seed color doesn't necessarily predict the flower color, though -- pink seeds turn darker when exposed to sunlight. Pure white seeds do seem to be associated with white flowers, although we haven't heard of a controlled test of that.

Typical Amaryllis seeds, Michael Mace

The flowers also vary in size, time of bloom, color patterns on the flower, shape of flower, etc. The photos that follow give some idea of the variety available.

MBQ 01 is an Amaryllis hybrid from Richard Doutt's old Bio Quest International mail order nursery, purchased from him in the early 1990s. It blooms reliably, at the end of summer. It's very vigorous, has a good bud count, strongly radial form, makes offsets regularly, and has large, reasonably dark pink flowers (they start pink and white, and then age to more or less solid pink). Unlike some other dark pink Amaryllis hybrids, these are pure clear magenta, with no mauve overtones. Photos by Michael Mace.

Amaryllis MBQ 01, Michael MaceAmaryllis MBQ 01, Michael Mace

Photo 1 below taken by Doug Westfall is of a selection he received as 'Old Wine #1'. Photos 2-3 by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller show a couple of the ones received from the dig made by Michael Mace of Les Hannibal's hybrids.

Amaryllis 'Old Wine #1', Doug WestfallAmaryllis belladonna hybrid, Mary Sue IttnerAmaryllis belladonna hybrid, Bob Rutemoeller

Paul Tyerman offered seed of some of his multiflora hybrids. Below are three pictures of a hot pink one including the bulb with the stem emerging, close up of the flower, and the flower head. The last picture is of a white one with pink tips.

Amaryllis belladonna multiflora hybrid, Paul TyermanAmaryllis belladonna multiflora hybrid, Paul TyermanAmaryllis belladonna multiflora hybrid, Paul TyermanAmaryllis belladonna multiflora hybrid, Paul Tyerman

06.03.2014 - 08:30  

Maggie (Tupper Lake,NY)

my Red amaryllis the last few years has produced a pink blossom why the change in color. is it related to soil pH? or just age. I've had it for 12 years.

07.03.2014 - 05:58  

David Pilling (Blackpool, England)

Hi Maggie - I wonder if your plant is what the botanists call Amaryllis (like on this page - grow outside flower at the end of Summer), or what is commonly called Amaryllis but is correctly called Hippeastrum (usually grown indoors in pots). If it is in a pot perhaps it needs fresh compost.

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Les Hannibal Hybrids 1-25 - Les Hannibal Hybrids 26-48 - x Amarcrinum - x Amarygia

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