What is Amyrillis?

Mary McMahon

Amyrillis — usually spelled "amaryllis" — is large family of flowering bulbs. These bulbs are famous for producing bold, showy, and faintly aromatic flowers which can be be grown indoors and out, with many plants blooming in the winter months, when people may be craving a bit of floral color in the house. Numerous garden stores sell amyrillis bulbs and growing plants, especially during the holiday season, when these flowering bulbs are sometimes given as gifts.


Several traits are common to the members of this family. They produce green leaves which look almost like belts or flattened snakes, and leafless flower stalks which typically burst into a cluster of six-petaled flowers in the winter and early spring. Depending on the species and the cultivar, the flowers may be trumpet-like, or flattened in appearance, and they tend to be tender and slightly velvety to the touch. Amyrillis flowers can be white, pink, red, yellow, green, or variegated, and they are very long-lasting.

The Hippeastrum genus is commonly used in gardening, although other genera within the amyrillis family are also grown. Because these plants evolved in the tropics of the world, they prefer warm, humid environments. Amyrillis bulbs can be grown outdoors in USDA zones eight and higher, but otherwise they should be grown indoors or in greenhouses. In slightly cooler climates, they can be kept outdoors in the spring and summer, but they should be taken indoors in the winter.

To grow an amyrillis, gardeners will need a container filled with rich, loose, fertile soil. The bulb can be planted in October through April, and the container should be placed in a warm spot and given plenty of water. The plant will start to develop shoots and leaves, and eventually it will produce a flower stalk which will bloom in December through June, depending on when the bulb was planted. After the flower dies off, the flower stalk can be cut away, and the plant can be allowed to go dormant. The leaves typically die off during the dormant stage, reappearing in the fall when the plant gets ready to flower again.

People can "force" amyrillis to bloom during the holidays by making the plant go dormant by August. The plant goes dormant when the water supply is decreased and it is kept in a cool place. In October to November, the amyrillis can be brought back into a warm and light environment, given some water and fertilizer, and allowed to bloom.

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