The Common Names for Amaryllis
Many bulbs referred to as amaryllis are actually in the Hippeastrum family. The two families of bulbs have many similarities, both in looks and in growing habits. Hippeastrum are native to South Africa while amaryllis bulbs come from South America. True amaryllis bulbs often naturalize in outdoor locations, but Hippeastrum varieties are usually grown indoors in pots.
Dutch Hybrid Amaryllis
Most people are familiar with the Dutch hybrid amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.), since their colorful blooms are highly visible in garden centers and discount stores during the holiday season. Quite often, the bulbs are already potted, so that the gardener has only to place the plant in a sunny spot and add water. The flowers are large and showy and come in a huge variety of colors, including stripes and bi-colors. Because they thrive in some countries and some zones in the US, they can be planted permanently outdoors in mild climates, but must be brought indoors during the colder months in less temperate parts of the country.
A relatively recent discovery, the butterfly amaryllis (Hippeastrum papilio) differs from the more familiar Dutch hybrid amaryllis in that its foliage stays green year-round, meaning that the plant never enters a state of dormancy. This tropical native of South America is hardy in some countries and some zones in the US, and bears maroon- and white-striped flowers, exotically shaped like the wings of a butterfly. Although it is endangered in its native Brazil because of habitat loss, its extensive propagation by growers ensures that it is readily available to home gardeners.
Naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) are so named because the pink or white flowers bloom on bare stems before the leaves develop. A native of Cape Floral Province in South Africa, these amaryllis can bloom at any time between summer and fall. Hardy in some countries and some zones in the US, they readily naturalize in areas with Mediterranean-type climates. Bulbs planted in the ground are more likely to bloom than those planted in pots.
Like the naked ladies plant, the resurrection lily (Lycoris squamigera) blooms on a bare stem. However, in the case of this close relative of the amaryllis bulb, the leaves emerge in the spring and then fade away by mid-summer. The rose-pink bell-shaped flowers then seem to appear by magic in August and September. Hardy in some countries and some zones in the US, the resurrection lily is more cold resistant than most of its amaryllis cousins.