Amaryllis - The meaning of flowers
Amaryllis is a favourite of florists and flower aficionados alike, with its tall, thick stems and large, colourful flowers. This veritable myriad of colours includes red, pink, white, cream and orange, and even striped and variegated shades of several other colours. The stems of the amaryllis can reach upwards of 60cm and 15cm in circumference.
From a genus of over 70 flower varieties, the amaryllis is native to South Africa, the Americas, Argentina, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean.
A bulbous plant variety, the amaryllis is popular with gardeners and is often sent as a gift at Christmas. The amaryllis bulb lies dormant until late summer, when one or two stems will sprout from the bulb. The actual process of bulb cultivation is a long and labor intensive process, hence why amaryllis bulbs are often less commonly available and slightly more expensive than other flowering bulb varieties.
The amaryllis flower first gained popularity at the beginning of the 18th Century and was a particular favourite of the wealthy cotton plantation owners in the Caribbean. Indeed, not only where slaves transported but the bulbs of the amaryllis were also sent out on the same cargo. The sheer luxury of the amaryllis was treasured and adored, and seemed to be a sign of sheer opulence at the time.
Another name sometimes seen for the amaryllis is "hippeastrum", and although the two plants appear near identical to the untrained eye, they are actually from totally different parts of the world. In 1837, the Honorable Reverend William Herbert - Dean of Manchester - coined the common named Horsemans Star for the hippeastrum.
Our love of the amaryllis has continued to this day and now more than ever, florists are using the flower increasingly often. Indeed a good florist will often keep stock of this opulent flower, but it always best to seek out the amaryllis in advance, as it may be necessary for the florist to order the flowers especially for you. The effort required in the continued cultivation of amaryllis is often reflected in the price, making it more expensive per stem than more common flower varieties. Like all good things in life however, they come at a cost!
When you consider that an amaryllis bulb will only flower in its third or fourth year, it is easy to see why it holds its price. Only a select few flowers which we see in floristry require such care - Birds of Paradise for example, which also take several years to bloom. Consider this: the vase of amaryllis flowers in the florists shop window are probably the result of a bulb which was planted some three or four years ago. This makes the farming and cultivation of amaryllis a relatively long term investment by floristry standards!
Did you know?
A single amaryllis bulb can last for 75 years, so make sure that after flowering you do not throw it away!