In November and December, with Christmas round the corner, amaryllis (Hippeastrum cultivars) appear along with the other usual seasonal offering of poinsettias.

While visiting the spring bulb displays at the Keukenhof gardens in Holland, I was fortunate to catch an amaryllis exhibition onsite. The variety of bloom colours, styles and shapes of many new hybrids were amazing. I was especially impressed by the Cybister hybrids with their spidery looking flowers. Most intriguing was a different method of culturing the bulb known as dry-flowering: blooming without soil or water!

amaryllis (Hippeastrum cultivars) - Edmonton Horticultural Society

Apparently this is possible with pre-cooled bulbs—the bigger the bulbs the better. Pre-cooling also applies to potted amaryllis. Giving the bulb a cool (55-65°F or 13–18° C) and dry resting/dormant period will help trigger the flowering process. Many web sites provide information on selecting, purchasing, growing and culturing amaryllis, but I found these to be the most reliable and helpful. They can help you bring your amaryllis back to bloom, or sort through conflicting advice.


The common name “amaryllis” in relation to the bulbs commercially available around Christmas, refers to plants in the genus Hippeastrum, native to Central and South America. The genus has about 90 species and over 600 hybrids and cultivars. The genus Amaryllis, of which there are only two currently known species, Amaryllis belladonna and A. paradisicola, is of South African origin.

Both Amaryllis and Hippeastrum belong to the plant family, Amaryllidaceae. Dutch growers have been in the forefront of cultivating Hippeastrum hybrids and have breeding outlets in India, the Netherlands and South Africa. Nowadays, Hippeastrum hybrids and cultivars can be sourced in India, United States, Australia, Japan and Israel as well.

Until the next trowel stop,


Written by Lucy Chang
Photos by Richard Knapton