We here at My Florida Backyard have been out of town for the past few days, and we arrived home to find the most wonderful welcome in the front yard - the hippeastrum is blooming!
Hippeastrum is more commonly, but incorrectly, known as amaryllis. Hippeastrum is in fact a genus in the family Amaryllidaceae, but it's a different genus from the actual amaryllis, which is native to South Africa and commonly known as belladonna lily. All of the "amaryllis" bulbs and plants sold for indoor and outdoor use are actually Hippeastrum. An easy way to tell the difference is that true amaryllis has no leaves - the stalk grows straight up from the ground (see this picture for an example).
Given the unbelievably striking flowers, the actual scientific name probably doesn't matter much to most of us. One of the great things about living in Florida is that we can plant our amaryllis/hippeastrum bulbs outdoors and allow them to multiply. And multiply they will - all of our bulbs came from the garden of a friend, where a dozen plants have turned into hundreds over the years.
The multi-bloomed stalks started to push up a couple of weeks ago. The blooms themselves will last only a week or so, after which we'll let them die back naturally to feed the bulbs below. The rest of the year, the thick green leaves at the base form a nice foliage background for other blooms under the tree. We planted these hippeastrum only last fall, so in a few years, we expect the greenery to fill in nicely.
For a few weeks each spring, though, it will be the brilliant orange blooms that make the front yard of My Florida Backyard the showiest place on the block. We hope to add some other colors of hippeastrum in years to come, but right now, we're pretty happy with blooms we've got.