The Butterfly Amaryllis

Every year I try to buy at least one new amaryllis bulb. What seems like a needless expense in the fall when I am still coming down from a bright and plentiful growing season, is almost essential by the time the long grey days of winter kick in. That little boost of colour and life is worth every penny.

I bought this year’s amaryllis, Hippeastrum papillio aka Butterfly amaryllis back in late September while I was at a garden shop picking up spring flowering bulbs for the garden. I have been longing to acquire this beautiful variety for years, but the price — often over $25 per bulb — put me off. Ever driven by a deal, I threw caution to the wind when I found mine at a $3.00 discount. Hey, it was the last one in the bin!

Busy with putting the garden to bed, planting new bulbs, reshaping the garden, and putting up about a million pounds in green tomatoes, I forgot about my wildly expensive bulb underneath a pile of garden-related debris on the kitchen table until I spotted it in distress and attempting to push its first flower spike through its mesh cage. I quickly potted it up and it rewarded me with the first two blooms over Christmas. They’re shrivelled now, but another spike is beginning to emerge. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t bloom while we’re on vacation. Although, that would sure teach me for neglecting it early on. I’ve read that this variety isn’t particularly reliable about reblooming in the future, so I could be paying a penance for years to come.

On Getting a Deal

You can save money and buy discounted, albeit somewhat worse for wear bulbs just after the holiday rush. If you’re buying kits don’t be afraid to open the box and check the condition of the bulb inside. A long life on the shelf past its bloom date can lead to desiccation, and sometimes they’ve already bloomed a gnarled, misshapen stem inside the box. Even still, most amaryllis bulbs have a second bloom in them before their season is out, and they often come back and even reproduce in subsequent years if you take some added care post-flower. Sometimes they come back even when you don’t take as much care as you should. Most standard varieties are tough as nails. It’s worth getting a few cut-rate bulbs that will sometimes surprise you with an errant bloom into the even bleaker days of January and February.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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14 thoughts on “The Butterfly Amaryllis

  1. We have amaryllis bulbs from 15yrs ago, still blooming due to the care my husband gives them. I do so enjoy your posts. Thank you. Ceci

  2. This post brought back memories of my husband’s grandmother Eva,now passed. Every year she would give my kids an amarylis bulb for Christmas. They watched with great joy as it bloomed over the season!

  3. Hello, I bought a bulb years ago and gave it to my Mom. When ever it dies down, we put it in the cold room until it starts to bloom again. Sometimes it is just leaves, the green looks really nice. Other times there will be a flower stem. Try leaving it in the pot and putting it somewhere cool where it won’t freeze and check on it every few weeks. Just don’t water it while in hibernation. It should start popping up again!

  4. Wow! This is beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one before. Maybe it’s just because my eye tends to go to the pricetag first, so at $25, I probably moved on. I have a deep red one that’s just starting to come back to life. I think I bought it at the grocery store last year, and it was beautiful. I don’t always have good results the second year, though, so we’ll see.

  5. This is the prettiest flower that I have seen this fall. I have got to start saving My Change so I can get one this next fall, if I am still around. The way my piggie bank grows is very very slowly,so wish me luck. I hope those bulbs are for sell, in the southern states.

  6. I have a collection of amaryllis too, but this is my favorite one. It does not go dormant like the other types of amaryliss and keeps it green leaves all year. Keep it evenly moist, put outside in warm weather and it will bless you with flowers – and baby bulbs!

  7. That one is a gorgeous color. I had only seen the solid red variety for years before stepping foot into the Amaryllis house at Keukenhof in The Netherlands – blew my socks off!

  8. I love amaryllis flowers! Probably because I was abandoned one and ended up throwing it away. Now everytime I see one I feel that I owe it to Mother Nature to plant one…lol

  9. Now that you have a dog, be careful of the amaryllis! Lycorine is toxic to dogs. I recently dug up my own amaryllis because of serious illness in my dog that may have been caused by eating it.

  10. Hi, I have been incredibly lucky with gifted amaryllis bulbs [I don't know what hybrids they are]. I have kept watering them throughout the year [they are potted in my house in New England], and two years in a row, I have had repeated blooms. Two bulbs flowered 3 times last year! I read advice on the web about the continued watering [instead of letting them dry out] and it has really worked for me.
    Maybe you can get your wonderful new bulb to do the same.

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