Thursday, February 7, 2013

Truth about Hippeastrum


Hippeastrum puniceum, is a much loved ornamental in the bulb industry. It has been with me since i was born, freely growing in our yard. They are on-show during the rainy season, May to January, and out of sight or dormant during the dry season, February to April.

I have long been calling ours as amaryllis, thinking that is the common name and the Hippeastrum puniceum as scientific name. I just realized that amaryllis and Hippeastrum are two different genus. It has a long history of being together in a Genus and have been formally separated just lately  into two separate Genus. Discussions lasted 5 decades from 1937 to 1987. Amaryllis are those from South Africa and Hippeastrum, from South America. The origin of the two genus are easier for me to understand because our colonizers were Spaniards and Portuguese.  Formally they are separated, but informally they are still together. The confusion arise because most of the Hippeastrum sold as bulbs are colloquially called amaryllis, because not many people know that they are formally " botanically divorced" by the International Botanical Congress.

                  
Above is an old photo of our hippeastrum hedge in our garden

So, now i am more confident to call ours as Hippeastrum (our local term actually is lirio). Our climate is more of the hot tropics, with around 36°C at the height of the dry season. Our bulbs are directly planted on the ground, self-supporting, neglected and only given particular attention when they bloom. This happens after the first heavy rains at the start of the rainy season in May. Staggered blooms last for a few weeks, followed by prolific green leaves that eventually dry coinciding with the start of the dry season in February. By then, we will not see its trace again unless we scrape the soil covering the bulbs.

 

Growth and development of hippeastrum are in two phases. Vegetative growth that follows blooming signifies active photosynthetic manufacture of its food in the leaves, then stored the manufactured food in the bulbs. When food storage is complete they are more equipped for flowering and reproduction. Leaves will eventually mature and die during the dry season. This coincides with its second phase of development called period of dormancy. Failure to flower can be due to a few reasons, but mainly because stored food in the bulb is not sufficient to sustain reproduction or flowering. This only means that leaves dried early or grown in shady conditions restrained food manufacture. Malnourished plants are naturally inhibited to reproduce, otherwise the offspring are not fitted to live to sustain life! How wonderful.

Flower forcing for bulbs in the tropics can be done with two strategies. First is by inducing early bulb dormancy, and second by breaking dormancy. Inducing dormancy of bulbs in pots is done by gradual withdrawal of water to induce fast drying of leaves and stop active physiological processes in the bulb. Then the pots can be placed in shaded areas to avoid bulb scorching. That is simulated starvation for about 6 weeks, after which they can be put back to sunny areas with full watering.

 Above is a bulb planted on the ground and watered in last week of January, 
this flower is in early February

Bulbs growing directly from the ground, with dried leaves or dormant for about six weeks can be induced to flower by heavy watering at once. They can even be dug, allowed to sit on gravels with water. Gravels hold the bulbs to keep them afloat, otherwise bulbs sunk in water will induce rotting. In two weeks growths or flower stalks will be obvious. In our climate those bulbs on the ground did not receive rain since November. They can either be watered luxuriously on the ground in January or they can be dug, put in water to break dormancy and enjoy the blooms.

My small experiment of breaking dormancy by letting bulbs sit in water in January. Spikes appear after 3d and flowers lasted for 2-3 weeks, because some bulbs produced 2nd spike. 

Some gardeners here, due to lack of knowledge on the principles of its growth and development, still do the strategies of those in the temperate climates. That is because they rely heavily on the internet. But putting in the refrigerators is not actually necessary because our bulbs can stay outdoors, even on their growing positions in the ground, until their dormancy is completed. Or if needed, dormancy can be cut by just watering them. Temperate climates only dug them during their dormancy, and put inside the refrigerators because bulbs freeze and are killed in winter. Knowledge makes work easier and cheaper!



 

    












20 comments:

  1. Mine is a hippy lily which I had put in the fridge for more than a month, then potted and placed in partial shade with little watering. Now it is shooting new leaves. I wonder if it will bloom?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tulips are similar in failing to flower because of insufficient energy stored in the bulb. Instead you get unusually big wide tulip leaves.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very lovely photos. You are so happy having hippeastrum growingso freely in your garden. They are beautiful. Have a fine weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. These are wonderful flowers Andrea:) I can't wait to put my bulbs back into their pots after this cold spell is over. Hope you are doing well. I'm here. I often read but never leave comments:( I've been meaning to write you but I get distracted with everything going on:) Big hugs to you my friend. I'm still here:)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hippies are not a common sight in my corner of the tropics any more. They were grown by my grandparents' generation, but seem to have lost favour since. I've never grown them myself. Thanks for the great information you've shared today, and the phtos.

    ReplyDelete
  6. They are gorgeous!! I seen a lot of them here at the nursery right now, as we are in the middle of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Beautiful photos and I love the colour.
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Hélena

    ReplyDelete
  8. How beautiful flowers and colours! Brings summer som much closer on a cold winter day. Thanks for sharing:)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fantastic photos and a gorgeous colour.

    Have a lovely weekend

    ReplyDelete
  10. No! A hippeastrum hedge! Your pictures make me faint. Thats really breathtaking. Have a lovely weekend. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahaha, yes Bettina, we have a hippeastrum hedge and that is just one side. There are still others and a lot more groups around the property!

      Delete
  11. Oh I am so happy you linked in today and shared with my little party! I love seeing the tips, tricks and inspiring photos everyone has to share! I am getting ready for spring to pop and seeing everyone's shares always inspires me! I hope you will link in again very soon and flaunt with me and the others again!
    I am sharing this post with the Tootsie Time Facebook page... if you haven't already "liked" it...please do so if you wish!
    hugs from Alberta Canada!

    Until Next Time... Happy Gardening!


    (¯`v´¯)
    `*.¸.*´Glenda/Tootsie
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.
    www.tootsietime.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow! So much info!
    Mine is yet to bloom this year.

    ReplyDelete
  13. They're gorgeous! Enjoy your weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  14. They look like a cross between a lily and an amaryllis...quite lovely

    ReplyDelete
  15. i love this color--my former boss promised to give me a pot on the next visit to his farm.:p my pink striped lirio has new buds. my aunt gave me a white lirio a couple of years ago but i've never seen the flower until it died.:(

    Yellow Creeper

    ReplyDelete
  16. Andrea, "Lirio" is a delightful name for these lyrical flowers. In the US, too, they are commonly known as Amaryllis and most associated (at least in the cold climates where I garden) with forced blooms at Christmastime. Yours are beautiful. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Jean, what i mean by the "industry" is the worldwide industry that doesn't differentiate amaryllis from the hippeastrum, when in fact they are two different genus. I think Lirio is the South American or Spanish term for lily.

      Delete

Your visits and comments are the life of this site. I certainly appreciate them and I will make sure to return the favor. Energies are not destroyed, they are just transformed, so healthy energies be with us all, just like the breath of life!

But i am requesting that no other personal links should be put on your comments. I am sorry, but backlinks give me some problems, so i might not publish them.Thank you very much for understanding.