Flower Spotlight: Amaryllis


Looking for a holiday flower other than poinsettia? Check out the festive charm of amaryllis. This dramatic tropical bloom is more than ready to spread holiday cheer. Let’s get to know this beautiful bulb plant better and see why it’s now a major player in Christmas gift-giving and decorating.

What’s so special about the amaryllis plant?

This eye-catching bloom’s true identity is still seen as a grey area among experts. There was controversy and confusion as to the use of “Amaryllis” as a scientific name and as a common name. There is the true Amaryllis which is a bulbous plant native to South Africa and then there is the Hippeastrum from Central and South America which is commonly and commercially known as ‘amaryllis’ and regarded as a Christmas flower. There are only two species of the African amaryllis – the A. belladonna and A. paradisicola while there are 90 species and over 600 cultivars of amaryllis bulbs from the Hippeastrum genus.

The amaryllis plant produces trumpet-shaped flowers with six tepals. They grow up to 10 inches long and have long strap-like leathery green leaves. This plant, when properly care for, can live for 75 years.

Simply put, the amaryllis (non-italicized) flower this article pertains to as an alternative to poinsettia is from the Hippeastrum genus.

The Legend of Amaryllis

Greek Mythology tells us the story of Amaryllis and Alteo. The shy maiden Amaryllis longed for a handsome but cold-hearted shepherd, Alteo, who cares more about his plants and flowers than the interest and attention all the young maidens in his village give. Alteo would tell the maidens that he would only give his heart to one who could bring him a new flower that he had never seen.  

Amaryllis was desperate to win his love so she asked help from a High Priestess. She was told to get a golden arrow and pierce her heart with it. She must then visit the young shepherd’s cottage everyday, taking the same path until he notices her. Amaryllis did what was asked of her for 29 days and on each day, she shed her blood on the path to his cottage. On the 30th day, Amaryllis found beautiful blood-red blooms on the way she takes towards Alteo’s cottage. She picked an armful and rushed to Alteo’s and when he opened the door, he was stunned – by both the bold red bloom and the maiden Amaryllis.

How many types of amaryllis are there?

There are hundreds of amaryllis varieties and they come in striking shades of red, pink, salmon, orange, and yellow. You’ll also find them in white and pale green colors. There are also bi-colored ones and some with mottling, stripes, spotting, or differently-colored edges. The amaryllis cultivars available commercially vary in size and flower stalk sturdiness, too.

The typical Christmas amaryllis features big flowers with rounded petals. Consider Amaryllis Apple Blossom with delicately-hued pink blooms, Ferrari amaryllis with a rich shade of holiday red, and Minerva amaryllis with bright red-and-white petals with kiwi green center.

Other striking amaryllis varieties include the Dutch cultivar Athena with 7-inch white blooms, Cherry Nymph with red double blossoms, Half and Half with red-and-green flowers, Papilio with petals resembling butterfly wings, and Rilona with its one-of-a-kind dusky apricot petals with deep orange veins.

Why choose Amaryllis for Christmas?  

Amaryllis flowers not only make the holidays merry and bright with their huge and boldly-colored flowers. They also make thoughtful and expressive gifts.

Amaryllis symbolizes love, beauty and strength. This was because of the flower’s mythological allusion, natural beauty, sturdiness, and resiliency when grown indoors. Potted amaryllis makes a meaningful Christmas floral gift. You can give it to communicate love, express admiration over someone’s inner and outer beauty, or recognize someone’s strength.

Plus, the amaryllis isn’t a one-and-done plant. With very little maintenance, you can keep this flowering plant going year after year.


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