The genus Hippeastrum

The genus Hippeastrum

The Hippeastrum genus currently includes about eighty species, belonging to the Amaryllidaceae family. Because of their resemblance to the flowers of the genus Amaryllis, they have long been included in this genus, but studies have shown that both are phylogenetically unrelated to each other. Native to South America and a good part of Central, the Hippeastrum have a herbaceous habit and are evergreen (some species introduced in Europe are annuals, losing their leaves in summer). Their bulb is spherical, globular and rich in robust and numerous roots. The leaves, usually six in number, are long, lanceolate and bright green, while the stems, long and fleshy, are often two. The inflorescences have three or six large funnel-shaped flowers, with petals turned backwards and evident external stamens rich in nectar. The colors are maintained for almost all the species on red, white and salmon, but some hybrids are pink, yellow or bright orange. 

The most common species

Of the eighty Hippeastrum species, only about a dozen are regularly imported, bred and sold in Europe. Among these, the most common is certainly the Hippeastrum vittatum, red with whitish veins that unravel from the center of the petals. Some varieties derived from this species have the most disparate colors; white with pink veins, red with yellow veins, as well as a hybrid with Hippeastrum reginae (another common species on the market) resistant to temperatures below zero. The Hippeastrum papilio species is so called due to the similarity of its petals with some butterflies of the genus of Papilio, creamy white and purple or violet veins, depending on the variety. The latter species is more delicate and often there is a need for a covered environment,

Reproduction and care

The reproduction of Hippeastrum occurs by bulb, available in any specialized nursery. They should be planted in autumn in large pots, using a substrate composed of universal soil, sphagnum peat and river sand, in order to recreate the right microenvironment and draining capacity typical of their natural habitat. They are buried leaving only the upper portion uncovered, after which they must be stored in a dry and sheltered environment all winter, taking care to water the surrounding soil every other day without wetting the bulb. In spring (around March) the bulbs can be exposed outside and in full sun, thus allowing germination. During the spring there will be the progressive growth of the leaves and flowers (the latter will appear 4 or 5 years after sowing), which will last until early autumn. Pruning consists exclusively in eliminating the leaves once they have dried, taking care to put the bulbs back in shelter for winter rest.

Advice and adversity

The Hippeastrum genus fears the high humidity of the soil, which is why it is advisable to keep the dormant bulbs in dry and well ventilated rooms, protected from frost, while the plants placed outside must enjoy full sun. Root rot, caused by too frequent watering, is a very frequent pathology in Hippeastrum, especially by bacteria of the genus Penicillium, which quickly lead to the death of the plant. Also the cottony cochineal represents a danger, therefore it must be promptly eliminated if there is an abundant presence on the stems or on the young leaves. Another tip is to fertilize the plants regularly during the flowering period, with nitrogen and phosphorus-based products, to be applied every fortnight to the base of the soil. If the bulbs are sown outside,  

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