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Rescue at hand

27 January 2022
Picture of a red hippeastrum plant.

The sustainably minded and savvy Diana Noonan helps us revive precious plants.

Hippeastrums

Potted hippeastrums can be a sad sight in February. Purchased in the run-up to Christmas and given as the perfect gift, they will likely continue to flower well into the new year – at which stage, either through neglect or exhaustion, they begin to look worse for wear. These beautiful flowering bulbs are worth saving though, not only because they are pricey (over $20 for a single potted specimen in flower) but also because they will live indefinitely, given the right care.

Before we tackle the first aid, let’s clear up a common misconception: hippeastrums are not the same as amaryllis (and your tabletop potted beauty is almost certainly going to be a hippeastrum). The Amaryllis genus hails from South Africa; hippeastrums, on the other hand, come from Central and South America. There are around 90 species in the Hippeastrum genus and over 600 cultivars. If you have long misunderstood the difference between hippeastrums and amaryllis, don’t be concerned. Until 1987, when the difference was officially cleared up, botanists were also scratching their heads! Now, let’s learn how to save a waning hippeastrum.

Flower die-off and bulb care

First things first: a dying flower is of no concern in itself. Christmas hippeastrum blooms will naturally die off in the first three months of the new year (although some will last longer than others). Once the flower has died off, it can be removed by cutting through the stem on an angle, 3cm above its base. Shortly before (or not long after) flower die-off occurs, strappy leaves will appear around the base of the bulb. This foliage needs to grow and remain healthy because the leaves provide the bulb with food for the coming flowering season....

Read more in our February issue – on shelves now. Subscribe here to get future Kiwi Gardener issues delivered to your door.

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