Plant of the Week: Hip­peas­trum

Plant bulbs in the com­ing weeks and you’ll have Christ­mas flow­ers

Garden News (UK) - - News -

The huge, fleshy-rooted bulbs of hip­peas­trum are avi­l­able in gar­den cen­tres right now. Th­ese are one of the in­door plea­sures of deep win­ter, pro­duc­ing trum­pet flow­ers on stout stalks. Be­ing al­most guar­an­teed to flower, they make ex­cel­lent gifts.

Hip­peas­trum, of­ten er­ro­neously known as amaryl­lis, come from South Amer­ica. The first to be hy­bridised were

H. regi­nae and H. vit­ta­tum by a Lan­cashire watch­maker in 1799, who gave plants to Liver­pool’s Botanic Gar­den. More hy­brids fol­lowed as more species were in­tro­duced. Breed­ing then moved to the Nether­lands and the USA in the late 19th and 20th cen­turies, then to South Africa and lat­terly to Ja­pan, In­dia, Brazil and Aus­tralia.

The tra­di­tional, large-flow­ered types come in a range of colours, from ver­mil­lion-red, through shades of pink, orange and salmon tones to pure white, streaked or striped. Dou­ble-petalled forms have been bred with sim­i­lar pat­tern­ing. Other colours, such as pale yel­low and lime have started to ap­pear, largely through the use of species such as the but­ter­fly hip­peas­trum H. pa­pilio and nar­row petalled

H. cy­bis­ter. Un­for­tu­nately very few hy­brids are scented.

Plant bulbs six to eight weeks from the date you want them to flower, which means Novem­ber if you want them in bloom for Christ­mas. Plant in a pot 5-7½cm (2-3in) wider than the bulb, leav­ing two thirds of the bulb ex­posed. Use a gen­er­alpur­pose com­post or John Innes No 2, firm and wa­ter in. The bulb will pro­duce a flower stem first, fol­lowed by strap-shaped leaves. Af­ter flow­er­ing, re­move the spent stem. Keep the bulb moist and fed un­til late sum­mer, then keep cool 15-18C (60-65F),

al­low the leaves to dry, then re­pot and start the cy­cle again.

P.5 Hip­peas­trum is our Plant of the Week

Photos: Alamy

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