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Gardenia augustaThere are many cultivars of Gardenia augusta, including groundcover, dwarf and medium-sized varieties, so there’s a gardenia for every size garden. All the cultivars also grow beautifully in containers, so even if you only have a small patio or balcony garden, you can plant a Gardenia.

Gardenia augusta is a fragrant flowering evergreen tropical plant that is a favourite in warm temperate and subtropical gardens worldwide. The common name, Cape Jasmine derived from the earlier belief that the plant originated in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. However, Gardenia augusta originated in Asia and is most commonly found growing in Vietnam, Southern China, Taiwan, Japan, India, and nearby regions of the subtropical eastern hemisphere. It is essential in all romantic and perfumed gardens, and makes a beautiful freestanding specimen shrub to plant close to a patio, entrance, garden bench or window; where its fragrance, shape and beauty can be appreciated; it also makes a good hedge or screening plant.

Mature Gardenia augusta shrubs usually have a round shape, growing +-1.8 to 2.5m tall, with almost an equal spread, producing their gorgeous fragrant flowers over a fairly long season from late spring to late autumn,  with the main flush in the months leading up to Christmas. The flowers are white, turning to creamy yellow as they age, and have a waxy feel. Their powerfully sweet fragrance can perfume an entire room, making them a favourite with florists; and warm summer breezes will waft the scent through the whole garden, much to the delight of everyone. Fleshy or leathery berries follow the flowers, and the large leathery leaves are highly glossy and remain attractive throughout the year.

Cultivars are available that are distinctly different from the plant described above. Flowers can be white or yellow; and single, semi-double, or double rose-like forms are available.

(Gardenia ‘Florida’) produces large double white blooms and grows +-1.2 to 1.5m tall and almost as wide.

(Gardenia ‘Golden Magic’) has double cream flowers that turn butter yellow with age. It grows +-80 to 100cm tall and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Professor Pucci’) produces large, double pure white flowers in profusion. It grows + -1.2 to 1.5m high and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse var Grandiflora Star’) produces single, pure white, star-shaped flowers and grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Four Seasons’) grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide and produces single pure white, star-shaped flowers.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse White Gem’) has small single white, star-like flowers. It grows +-40 to 50cm tall and +-40 to 80cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Radicans’) is a compact and low-growing groundcover with very small leaves; +-30 to 40cm tall, and spreading +-80cm to 1m wide. It produces small (3cm) double white flowers and is often used for bonsai.

Cultivation/Propagation:

Gardenia’s are evergreen and grow best in warm, moist regions, but are semi-hardy to moderate frost if planted in a protected position in the garden. Select a site that receives semi-shade to sun, or morning sun. In very hot regions the plant will appreciate some shade in summer, during the hottest part of the day; but in cooler areas they are quite happy in full sun. Ensure that the planting site is protected from strong winds and that the soil drains well. Prepare the planting holes very well, incorporating lots of compost and a dressing of bone meal. Gardenias love slightly acid soil, so if your soil is not acid enough, use lots of acid compost.

They enjoy an evenly moist soil that is not soggy, so water them year round, but particularly in spring and summer when the plant is flowering. Gardenias are heavy feeders and need to be fertilised on a regular basis with a balanced fertiliser. Pruning is sometimes necessary to help shape your plant or to keep it a smaller size. It is important that pruning be done after the plant has finished flowering, or you may cut off newly forming buds.

Propagation is by semi-hardwood cuttings which root easily in moist soil during the warm summer months; or by seed sown in spring and early summer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Gardenias are susceptible to several pests, primarily sucking insects. Insect attacks are aggravated by lack of air circulation in small walled gardens and courtyards. The presence of insects may also be a sign that your plant is under stress, so ensure that it is well watered and correctly fertilised. Aphids, whitefly, spider mites, scale insects, mealy bug and sooty mould are common problems, which can be easily controlled by spraying with environmentally safe soap and oil sprays. Use a commercial sticker liker G-49 with your insecticide to help the poison stick to the glossy leaves.
 
Gardenias are very susceptible to nematodes, especially in sandy soils. Nematodes are mobile worm-like microscopic organisms which attack the roots of plants. They are easily recognisable, causing wart-like lumps on the roots about the size of a match head. Signs of nematodes are wilting and yellow leaves which persist even after fertilising. Potent chemicals are not suitable for use in the home garden, so rather sow marigolds near susceptible plants and dig them lightly into the soil when they have finished flowering. Khaki weed also works well to help control nematodes.

Gardenia flower buds may go brown, drop, or fail to open. This is fairly normal and occurs mainly because the plant tends to keep producing flower buds right through autumn, even though the plants growth is slowing down. The plant will often hold these buds right through winter and drop them in spring. Bud drop can also be caused by weevil or leaf hopper damage.

Yellow leaves can appear at any time of the year, but are particularly prevalent in spring. Yellowing is generally attributed to a magnesium deficiency and is treated with applications of Epsom salts (sulphate of magnesium). If your plant has been planted correctly, is fed regularly with a good all- purpose organic fertiliser, and is watered correctly, yellowing of the leaves should not become a problem. It is especially important to fertilise in spring when the weather warms up.

Warning:

Gardenias are not poisonous. Like other plants, though, they should still be cultivated cautiously around small children, as plant parts may present choking hazards. Sensitive or allergic individuals may also experience a reaction to contact with the plant, so it is a good idea to wear gloves when working extensively with a gardenia.

Gardening in South Africa

 

Gardenia augustaThere are many cultivars of Gardenia augusta, including groundcover, dwarf and medium-sized varieties, so there’s a gardenia for every size garden. All the cultivars also grow beautifully in containers, so even if you only have a small patio or balcony garden, you can plant a Gardenia.

Gardenia augusta is a fragrant flowering evergreen tropical plant that is a favourite in warm temperate and subtropical gardens worldwide. The common name, Cape Jasmine derived from the earlier belief that the plant originated in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. However, Gardenia augusta originated in Asia and is most commonly found growing in Vietnam, Southern China, Taiwan, Japan, India, and nearby regions of the subtropical eastern hemisphere. It is essential in all romantic and perfumed gardens, and makes a beautiful freestanding specimen shrub to plant close to a patio, entrance, garden bench or window; where its fragrance, shape and beauty can be appreciated; it also makes a good hedge or screening plant.

Mature Gardenia augusta shrubs usually have a round shape, growing +-1.8 to 2.5m tall, with almost an equal spread, producing their gorgeous fragrant flowers over a fairly long season from late spring to late autumn,  with the main flush in the months leading up to Christmas. The flowers are white, turning to creamy yellow as they age, and have a waxy feel. Their powerfully sweet fragrance can perfume an entire room, making them a favourite with florists; and warm summer breezes will waft the scent through the whole garden, much to the delight of everyone. Fleshy or leathery berries follow the flowers, and the large leathery leaves are highly glossy and remain attractive throughout the year.

Cultivars are available that are distinctly different from the plant described above. Flowers can be white or yellow; and single, semi-double, or double rose-like forms are available.

(Gardenia ‘Florida’) produces large double white blooms and grows +-1.2 to 1.5m tall and almost as wide.

(Gardenia ‘Golden Magic’) has double cream flowers that turn butter yellow with age. It grows +-80 to 100cm tall and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Professor Pucci’) produces large, double pure white flowers in profusion. It grows + -1.2 to 1.5m high and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse var Grandiflora Star’) produces single, pure white, star-shaped flowers and grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Four Seasons’) grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide and produces single pure white, star-shaped flowers.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse White Gem’) has small single white, star-like flowers. It grows +-40 to 50cm tall and +-40 to 80cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Radicans’) is a compact and low-growing groundcover with very small leaves; +-30 to 40cm tall, and spreading +-80cm to 1m wide. It produces small (3cm) double white flowers and is often used for bonsai.

Cultivation/Propagation:

Gardenia’s are evergreen and grow best in warm, moist regions, but are semi-hardy to moderate frost if planted in a protected position in the garden. Select a site that receives semi-shade to sun, or morning sun. In very hot regions the plant will appreciate some shade in summer, during the hottest part of the day; but in cooler areas they are quite happy in full sun. Ensure that the planting site is protected from strong winds and that the soil drains well. Prepare the planting holes very well, incorporating lots of compost and a dressing of bone meal. Gardenias love slightly acid soil, so if your soil is not acid enough, use lots of acid compost.

They enjoy an evenly moist soil that is not soggy, so water them year round, but particularly in spring and summer when the plant is flowering. Gardenias are heavy feeders and need to be fertilised on a regular basis with a balanced fertiliser. Pruning is sometimes necessary to help shape your plant or to keep it a smaller size. It is important that pruning be done after the plant has finished flowering, or you may cut off newly forming buds.

Propagation is by semi-hardwood cuttings which root easily in moist soil during the warm summer months; or by seed sown in spring and early summer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Gardenias are susceptible to several pests, primarily sucking insects. Insect attacks are aggravated by lack of air circulation in small walled gardens and courtyards. The presence of insects may also be a sign that your plant is under stress, so ensure that it is well watered and correctly fertilised. Aphids, whitefly, spider mites, scale insects, mealy bug and sooty mould are common problems, which can be easily controlled by spraying with environmentally safe soap and oil sprays. Use a commercial sticker liker G-49 with your insecticide to help the poison stick to the glossy leaves.
 
Gardenias are very susceptible to nematodes, especially in sandy soils. Nematodes are mobile worm-like microscopic organisms which attack the roots of plants. They are easily recognisable, causing wart-like lumps on the roots about the size of a match head. Signs of nematodes are wilting and yellow leaves which persist even after fertilising. Potent chemicals are not suitable for use in the home garden, so rather sow marigolds near susceptible plants and dig them lightly into the soil when they have finished flowering. Khaki weed also works well to help control nematodes.

Gardenia flower buds may go brown, drop, or fail to open. This is fairly normal and occurs mainly because the plant tends to keep producing flower buds right through autumn, even though the plants growth is slowing down. The plant will often hold these buds right through winter and drop them in spring. Bud drop can also be caused by weevil or leaf hopper damage.

Yellow leaves can appear at any time of the year, but are particularly prevalent in spring. Yellowing is generally attributed to a magnesium deficiency and is treated with applications of Epsom salts (sulphate of magnesium). If your plant has been planted correctly, is fed regularly with a good all- purpose organic fertiliser, and is watered correctly, yellowing of the leaves should not become a problem. It is especially important to fertilise in spring when the weather warms up.

Warning:

Gardenias are not poisonous. Like other plants, though, they should still be cultivated cautiously around small children, as plant parts may present choking hazards. Sensitive or allergic individuals may also experience a reaction to contact with the plant, so it is a good idea to wear gloves when working extensively with a gardenia.

Gardening in South Africa

Amaryllis Christmas Star. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaPopular for their festive, oversized flowers, amaryllis bulbs are commonly sold for the Christmas holiday season. Varieties include single flowered, double flowered and miniature’s, ranging in colour from red to salmon, orange, white and pink, with many varieties having stripes or contrasting edges.  New hybrids can have flowers up to 22cm across and the double flowers from Japan are particularly beautiful. These large varieties usually produce a single stem with 4 flowers, and very large bulbs may produce 2 stems. Sonatini hybrids are true miniatures with blooms between 6 and 12cm across – this may not sound small, but for Amaryllis flowers it is! These smaller varieties make up for what they lack in stature with their blooming generosity, with a single bulb producing up to 3 flower spikes, crowned with up to 6 delightful blooms on each spike.

The plants we commonly call “Amaryllis” are actually Hippeastrum hybrids, and the confusion surrounding the two genera stems from their complex history dating back to the 18th Century. During the 1820s, British botanist, Dean Herbert (1778–1847), showed that the Amaryllis which is native to the Cape Province in South Africa, and Hippeastrum, also known as “Knight’s Star Lily” to be fundamentally different botanically and he assigned them to different genera. Considerable confusion has always surrounded the correct naming of this plant with many breeders, growers and traders persisting in referring to the plant incorrectly as “Amaryllis”.  Because almost everyone still calls these bulbs, Amaryllis, for the purpose of this article, they will also be referred to by their common name. To put it simply, the true Amaryllis is a bulb which belongs to our indigenous Amaryllis belladonna, commonly called “Belladonna Lily” – a genus with only one species that is found in the south-western Cape.

Amaryllis Sonata double Alfresco. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaHippeastrums, however, are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina, north to Mexico and the Caribbean. The Hippeastrum genus comprises around 80 species within the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes two other well-known bulbous crops: Narcissus and Galanthus. In the 18th century Dutch growers imported the first bulbs from South America to grow commercially, and this continued into the 19th century with even more botanists and explorers bringing back Hippeastrum species from South American countries. These magnificent blooms truly captured the imagination of plant breeders who worked diligently to create new hybrids and cultivars for the markets. Breeding developments continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, resulting in an explosion of new hybrids and types, in an expanded colour range. This period was also characterized by the establishment of many significant cultural research projects that resulted in the rapid expansion and professionalization of commercial hippeastrum cultivation.

In 1946 two Dutch growers moved to the Union of South Africa and began cultivation here, producing many beautiful hybrids for the world markets, and our bulb growers are still counted amongst the best in the world, with South African bred Hippeastrums being sought after across North and South America, all of Northern Europe, Japan, Russia and Iceland.

Amaryllis Sonatini Assorted. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaSpoil yourself this festive season with a selection of gorgeous Amaryllis – they are quite easy to grow if you understand their needs, and with good care you can enjoy their blooms year after year!

Amaryllis is traditionally grown in small pots but can also be planted into garden beds, where they look best if planted in groups. And, like hyacinths, amaryllis bulbs can also be grown on water by placing the bulbs on top of pebbles or marbles in a glass container and filling the container with water until just below the bulb. The roots will naturally grow down into the water, so never allow the bottom of the bulb to sit in the water or it will rot.

Amaryllis bulbs take approximately 6 to 8 weeks to bloom once planted out, and if you want blooms at Christmas time, plant them out around the 10th of November. This can be done by manipulating the bulbs to flower at a specific time, by placing them in a paper packet and storing them in the refrigerator. This tricks the bulbs into thinking that it is still winter and they remain dormant. Check the stored bulbs regularly, and if they do start shooting, plant them out immediately.

Amaryllis Symphony single Gold Medal. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIn the garden Amaryllis will grow in most good, well-drained soils. They flourish in sun to semi-shade, but the flowers will last longer if they are protected from the hot midday sun. Water your plants regularly in summer, never allowing the soil to dry out totally but not allowing it to remain soggy either. For the best results, feed every two weeks during the growing season with a special bulb food or liquid fertiliser for flowering plants.

Most amaryllis bulbs must produce at least four healthy leaves in order to bloom well the following year.  Some species will grow leaves and bloom at the same time, while others will grow leaves only after they have bloomed.  After the flowers fade, cut off the stems at ground level and allow the leaves to continue to grow and nourish the bulb for next season’s blooms. You should also continue to water and fertilise the plant, but towards the end of summer gradually reduce watering so that the leaves die back naturally. Once all the leaves are brown, cut them off and allow the bulb to rest by lifting and storing it in a paper bag, in a cool, dry place for at least 2 months. When the bulb is ready to grow again it will start to produce a green leaf or stem, and can be planted again in fresh soil.

If the soil drains well the bulbs can be left in the soil and divided only when they become overcrowded. It is not necessary to water the dormant bulbs from about April to the end of August, and you can wait for the new spring growth to emerge before feeding and watering again. However the bulbs won’t be harmed if watered lightly in winter, together with other winter bloomers, as long as the soil has perfect drainage.

Amaryllis Symphony double Inferno. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you live in the winter rainfall regions, or have a small garden, you may wish to lift and store the bulbs at the end of summer, but only do this after the foliage has died down naturally in autumn. The mother bulb will produce small ‘bulblets’ and these can be gently teased off and potted, but they will only be large enough to start flowering again in two to three years.

Container grown specimens are treated in the same way as those growing in the ground, but if you are planting into containers, do so before they begin to sprout. Amaryllis love growing in small containers, so select a pot only about 3cm larger in diameter than the bulb. Use a good potting mixture that drains very well, and plant the bulbs so that a third of the bulb is visible above the soil. Water and place in a warm location, watering very sparingly thereafter until the first signs of new growth appear in about 3 weeks. Once actively growing, feed every two weeks as for those growing in the garden, and water when the potting soil is almost, but not totally dry. Remember, potted bulbs do not like standing in water, so empty the water from drip trays. Also, turn the pot regularly so that the plant stems grow straight.

When your potted plants are in full bloom, you may prefer to move them indoors to enjoy, or you may move then into a more shady and secluded spot outdoors, which will keep the blooms looking good for longer. Once the leaves have died down naturally at the end of summer, the containers can be moved into a sheltered part of the garden where it is relatively dry and warm, to over-winter.

Amaryllis Sonatini Amalfi. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you are growing your amaryllis indoors, planting and caring for them is the same as for potted specimens growing outdoors. Indoors they will require very good, bright light, and although they don’t need sun, a little sunlight won’t harm them either.  To prevent root rot, water sparingly until the flower stem appears, but when it starts to grow, increase the amount of water you give, and check your plants regularly, because flowering plants are thirsty.

Amaryllis is a wonderful gift to give at any time of the year, but especially during the Christmas season. They never fail to delight and are certainly well worth investing in, and whether you are purchasing bulbs to plant out yourself, or those already in full bloom, these beauties are sure to steal your heart.

Find all your favourite bulbs and how to care for them in our Bulb Plant Section – signing up as a member is easy and affordable, so spoil yourself this Christmas with a subscription, its worth it!.

Gardening in South Africa

Amaryllis Christmas Star. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaPopular for their festive, oversized flowers, amaryllis bulbs are commonly sold for the Christmas holiday season. Varieties include single flowered, double flowered and miniature’s, ranging in colour from red to salmon, orange, white and pink, with many varieties having stripes or contrasting edges.  New hybrids can have flowers up to 22cm across and the double flowers from Japan are particularly beautiful. These large varieties usually produce a single stem with 4 flowers, and very large bulbs may produce 2 stems. Sonatini hybrids are true miniatures with blooms between 6 and 12cm across – this may not sound small, but for Amaryllis flowers it is! These smaller varieties make up for what they lack in stature with their blooming generosity, with a single bulb producing up to 3 flower spikes, crowned with up to 6 delightful blooms on each spike.

The plants we commonly call “Amaryllis” are actually Hippeastrum hybrids, and the confusion surrounding the two genera stems from their complex history dating back to the 18th Century. During the 1820s, British botanist, Dean Herbert (1778–1847), showed that the Amaryllis which is native to the Cape Province in South Africa, and Hippeastrum, also known as “Knight’s Star Lily” to be fundamentally different botanically and he assigned them to different genera. Considerable confusion has always surrounded the correct naming of this plant with many breeders, growers and traders persisting in referring to the plant incorrectly as “Amaryllis”.  Because almost everyone still calls these bulbs, Amaryllis, for the purpose of this article, they will also be referred to by their common name. To put it simply, the true Amaryllis is a bulb which belongs to our indigenous Amaryllis belladonna, commonly called “Belladonna Lily” – a genus with only one species that is found in the south-western Cape.

Amaryllis Sonata double Alfresco. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaHippeastrums, however, are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina, north to Mexico and the Caribbean. The Hippeastrum genus comprises around 80 species within the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes two other well-known bulbous crops: Narcissus and Galanthus. In the 18th century Dutch growers imported the first bulbs from South America to grow commercially, and this continued into the 19th century with even more botanists and explorers bringing back Hippeastrum species from South American countries. These magnificent blooms truly captured the imagination of plant breeders who worked diligently to create new hybrids and cultivars for the markets. Breeding developments continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, resulting in an explosion of new hybrids and types, in an expanded colour range. This period was also characterized by the establishment of many significant cultural research projects that resulted in the rapid expansion and professionalization of commercial hippeastrum cultivation.

In 1946 two Dutch growers moved to the Union of South Africa and began cultivation here, producing many beautiful hybrids for the world markets, and our bulb growers are still counted amongst the best in the world, with South African bred Hippeastrums being sought after across North and South America, all of Northern Europe, Japan, Russia and Iceland.

Amaryllis Sonatini Assorted. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaSpoil yourself this festive season with a selection of gorgeous Amaryllis – they are quite easy to grow if you understand their needs, and with good care you can enjoy their blooms year after year!

Amaryllis is traditionally grown in small pots but can also be planted into garden beds, where they look best if planted in groups. And, like hyacinths, amaryllis bulbs can also be grown on water by placing the bulbs on top of pebbles or marbles in a glass container and filling the container with water until just below the bulb. The roots will naturally grow down into the water, so never allow the bottom of the bulb to sit in the water or it will rot.

Amaryllis bulbs take approximately 6 to 8 weeks to bloom once planted out, and if you want blooms at Christmas time, plant them out around the 10th of November. This can be done by manipulating the bulbs to flower at a specific time, by placing them in a paper packet and storing them in the refrigerator. This tricks the bulbs into thinking that it is still winter and they remain dormant. Check the stored bulbs regularly, and if they do start shooting, plant them out immediately.

Amaryllis Symphony single Gold Medal. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIn the garden Amaryllis will grow in most good, well-drained soils. They flourish in sun to semi-shade, but the flowers will last longer if they are protected from the hot midday sun. Water your plants regularly in summer, never allowing the soil to dry out totally but not allowing it to remain soggy either. For the best results, feed every two weeks during the growing season with a special bulb food or liquid fertiliser for flowering plants.

Most amaryllis bulbs must produce at least four healthy leaves in order to bloom well the following year.  Some species will grow leaves and bloom at the same time, while others will grow leaves only after they have bloomed.  After the flowers fade, cut off the stems at ground level and allow the leaves to continue to grow and nourish the bulb for next season’s blooms. You should also continue to water and fertilise the plant, but towards the end of summer gradually reduce watering so that the leaves die back naturally. Once all the leaves are brown, cut them off and allow the bulb to rest by lifting and storing it in a paper bag, in a cool, dry place for at least 2 months. When the bulb is ready to grow again it will start to produce a green leaf or stem, and can be planted again in fresh soil.

If the soil drains well the bulbs can be left in the soil and divided only when they become overcrowded. It is not necessary to water the dormant bulbs from about April to the end of August, and you can wait for the new spring growth to emerge before feeding and watering again. However the bulbs won’t be harmed if watered lightly in winter, together with other winter bloomers, as long as the soil has perfect drainage.

Amaryllis Symphony double Inferno. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you live in the winter rainfall regions, or have a small garden, you may wish to lift and store the bulbs at the end of summer, but only do this after the foliage has died down naturally in autumn. The mother bulb will produce small ‘bulblets’ and these can be gently teased off and potted, but they will only be large enough to start flowering again in two to three years.

Container grown specimens are treated in the same way as those growing in the ground, but if you are planting into containers, do so before they begin to sprout. Amaryllis love growing in small containers, so select a pot only about 3cm larger in diameter than the bulb. Use a good potting mixture that drains very well, and plant the bulbs so that a third of the bulb is visible above the soil. Water and place in a warm location, watering very sparingly thereafter until the first signs of new growth appear in about 3 weeks. Once actively growing, feed every two weeks as for those growing in the garden, and water when the potting soil is almost, but not totally dry. Remember, potted bulbs do not like standing in water, so empty the water from drip trays. Also, turn the pot regularly so that the plant stems grow straight.

When your potted plants are in full bloom, you may prefer to move them indoors to enjoy, or you may move then into a more shady and secluded spot outdoors, which will keep the blooms looking good for longer. Once the leaves have died down naturally at the end of summer, the containers can be moved into a sheltered part of the garden where it is relatively dry and warm, to over-winter.

Amaryllis Sonatini Amalfi. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you are growing your amaryllis indoors, planting and caring for them is the same as for potted specimens growing outdoors. Indoors they will require very good, bright light, and although they don’t need sun, a little sunlight won’t harm them either.  To prevent root rot, water sparingly until the flower stem appears, but when it starts to grow, increase the amount of water you give, and check your plants regularly, because flowering plants are thirsty.

Amaryllis is a wonderful gift to give at any time of the year, but especially during the Christmas season. They never fail to delight and are certainly well worth investing in, and whether you are purchasing bulbs to plant out yourself, or those already in full bloom, these beauties are sure to steal your heart.

Find all your favourite bulbs and how to care for them in our Bulb Plant Section – signing up as a member is easy and affordable, so spoil yourself this Christmas with a subscription, its worth it!.

Gardening in South Africa

Amaryllis Christmas Star. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaPopular for their festive, oversized flowers, amaryllis bulbs are commonly sold for the Christmas holiday season. Varieties include single flowered, double flowered and miniature’s, ranging in colour from red to salmon, orange, white and pink, with many varieties having stripes or contrasting edges.  New hybrids can have flowers up to 22cm across and the double flowers from Japan are particularly beautiful. These large varieties usually produce a single stem with 4 flowers, and very large bulbs may produce 2 stems. Sonatini hybrids are true miniatures with blooms between 6 and 12cm across – this may not sound small, but for Amaryllis flowers it is! These smaller varieties make up for what they lack in stature with their blooming generosity, with a single bulb producing up to 3 flower spikes, crowned with up to 6 delightful blooms on each spike.

The plants we commonly call “Amaryllis” are actually Hippeastrum hybrids, and the confusion surrounding the two genera stems from their complex history dating back to the 18th Century. During the 1820s, British botanist, Dean Herbert (1778–1847), showed that the Amaryllis which is native to the Cape Province in South Africa, and Hippeastrum, also known as “Knight’s Star Lily” to be fundamentally different botanically and he assigned them to different genera. Considerable confusion has always surrounded the correct naming of this plant with many breeders, growers and traders persisting in referring to the plant incorrectly as “Amaryllis”.  Because almost everyone still calls these bulbs, Amaryllis, for the purpose of this article, they will also be referred to by their common name. To put it simply, the true Amaryllis is a bulb which belongs to our indigenous Amaryllis belladonna, commonly called “Belladonna Lily” – a genus with only one species that is found in the south-western Cape.

Amaryllis Sonata double Alfresco. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaHippeastrums, however, are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina, north to Mexico and the Caribbean. The Hippeastrum genus comprises around 80 species within the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes two other well-known bulbous crops: Narcissus and Galanthus. In the 18th century Dutch growers imported the first bulbs from South America to grow commercially, and this continued into the 19th century with even more botanists and explorers bringing back Hippeastrum species from South American countries. These magnificent blooms truly captured the imagination of plant breeders who worked diligently to create new hybrids and cultivars for the markets. Breeding developments continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, resulting in an explosion of new hybrids and types, in an expanded colour range. This period was also characterized by the establishment of many significant cultural research projects that resulted in the rapid expansion and professionalization of commercial hippeastrum cultivation.

In 1946 two Dutch growers moved to the Union of South Africa and began cultivation here, producing many beautiful hybrids for the world markets, and our bulb growers are still counted amongst the best in the world, with South African bred Hippeastrums being sought after across North and South America, all of Northern Europe, Japan, Russia and Iceland.

Amaryllis Sonatini Assorted. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaSpoil yourself this festive season with a selection of gorgeous Amaryllis – they are quite easy to grow if you understand their needs, and with good care you can enjoy their blooms year after year!

Amaryllis is traditionally grown in small pots but can also be planted into garden beds, where they look best if planted in groups. And, like hyacinths, amaryllis bulbs can also be grown on water by placing the bulbs on top of pebbles or marbles in a glass container and filling the container with water until just below the bulb. The roots will naturally grow down into the water, so never allow the bottom of the bulb to sit in the water or it will rot.

Amaryllis bulbs take approximately 6 to 8 weeks to bloom once planted out, and if you want blooms at Christmas time, plant them out around the 10th of November. This can be done by manipulating the bulbs to flower at a specific time, by placing them in a paper packet and storing them in the refrigerator. This tricks the bulbs into thinking that it is still winter and they remain dormant. Check the stored bulbs regularly, and if they do start shooting, plant them out immediately.

Amaryllis Symphony single Gold Medal. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIn the garden Amaryllis will grow in most good, well-drained soils. They flourish in sun to semi-shade, but the flowers will last longer if they are protected from the hot midday sun. Water your plants regularly in summer, never allowing the soil to dry out totally but not allowing it to remain soggy either. For the best results, feed every two weeks during the growing season with a special bulb food or liquid fertiliser for flowering plants.

Most amaryllis bulbs must produce at least four healthy leaves in order to bloom well the following year.  Some species will grow leaves and bloom at the same time, while others will grow leaves only after they have bloomed.  After the flowers fade, cut off the stems at ground level and allow the leaves to continue to grow and nourish the bulb for next season’s blooms. You should also continue to water and fertilise the plant, but towards the end of summer gradually reduce watering so that the leaves die back naturally. Once all the leaves are brown, cut them off and allow the bulb to rest by lifting and storing it in a paper bag, in a cool, dry place for at least 2 months. When the bulb is ready to grow again it will start to produce a green leaf or stem, and can be planted again in fresh soil.

If the soil drains well the bulbs can be left in the soil and divided only when they become overcrowded. It is not necessary to water the dormant bulbs from about April to the end of August, and you can wait for the new spring growth to emerge before feeding and watering again. However the bulbs won’t be harmed if watered lightly in winter, together with other winter bloomers, as long as the soil has perfect drainage.

Amaryllis Symphony double Inferno. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you live in the winter rainfall regions, or have a small garden, you may wish to lift and store the bulbs at the end of summer, but only do this after the foliage has died down naturally in autumn. The mother bulb will produce small ‘bulblets’ and these can be gently teased off and potted, but they will only be large enough to start flowering again in two to three years.

Container grown specimens are treated in the same way as those growing in the ground, but if you are planting into containers, do so before they begin to sprout. Amaryllis love growing in small containers, so select a pot only about 3cm larger in diameter than the bulb. Use a good potting mixture that drains very well, and plant the bulbs so that a third of the bulb is visible above the soil. Water and place in a warm location, watering very sparingly thereafter until the first signs of new growth appear in about 3 weeks. Once actively growing, feed every two weeks as for those growing in the garden, and water when the potting soil is almost, but not totally dry. Remember, potted bulbs do not like standing in water, so empty the water from drip trays. Also, turn the pot regularly so that the plant stems grow straight.

When your potted plants are in full bloom, you may prefer to move them indoors to enjoy, or you may move then into a more shady and secluded spot outdoors, which will keep the blooms looking good for longer. Once the leaves have died down naturally at the end of summer, the containers can be moved into a sheltered part of the garden where it is relatively dry and warm, to over-winter.

Amaryllis Sonatini Amalfi. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you are growing your amaryllis indoors, planting and caring for them is the same as for potted specimens growing outdoors. Indoors they will require very good, bright light, and although they don’t need sun, a little sunlight won’t harm them either.  To prevent root rot, water sparingly until the flower stem appears, but when it starts to grow, increase the amount of water you give, and check your plants regularly, because flowering plants are thirsty.

Amaryllis is a wonderful gift to give at any time of the year, but especially during the Christmas season. They never fail to delight and are certainly well worth investing in, and whether you are purchasing bulbs to plant out yourself, or those already in full bloom, these beauties are sure to steal your heart.

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Gardening in South Africa