Type: True bulb
Origin: It is native to tropical forests of the Atlantic Coast of southern Brazil.
In 1967, H. papilio was discovered in a garden in Santa Catarina state, southern Brazil, by Dr. Carlos A. Gómez Rupple, an Argentine collector. The species was published as Amaryllis papilio by Argentine botanist Pedro Félix Ravenna (Pierfelice Ravenna) in 1970, after a genus Papilio of swallowtail butterflies due to the resemblance of the inner tepals to the wing tails of the insects (hence, the common name of ‘Butterfly Amaryllis’).
Traditional Hippeastrum are large- flowering (20cm+) although many miniature hybrids have been developed in recent years. Colours range from pure white to lovely soft rose, pink, magenta, salmon, orange, red, mahogany, red and white striped beauties. Double-flowered cultivars are also available in this colour range. The strap-shaped, erect leaves accompany the rapid growth of the floral stalks.
Hippeastrum are primarily pot plants in colder countries, although they can also be planted in the South African garden with great success. They are among the easiest, fastest and most spectacular of all plants to grow, producing huge blooms in less than five weeks from planting.
In the garden: Plant the bulb without delay, before sprouting takes place. Choose a location with sufficient sunlight. Excess shade will result in extended leaves and reduce long- term flowering. Plant with the neck exposed. Hippeastrum in garden beds look best in same- colour groups of 5 or more.
In a container: Pot the bulb in any size container into which it will fit, provided it has a drainage hole. Use a good well- draining potting soil (pH 6.0 to 6.8). The soil should be light, yet nutritious, and contain no tree bark or fresh manure. Sand can be added for improved drainage. Hold the bulb so that its roots hang down into the pot, then fill in around the bulb with the potting medium. Firm it down so that no air pockets remain among the roots. The nose of the bulb should be above the pot’s rim, with its shoulder protruding above the soil surface. After planting, water well and firm down the medium again. Roots and bulb should be seated firmly, but take care not to damage the roots. Place your potted Amaryllis in a light, constantly-warm position, as this will encourage immediate growth. Any room in which a normal summer home temperature of around 20°C is maintained, is ideal. Never expose the bulb to temperatures below freezing. As the first floral stalk lengthens, rotate pot through a half turn every day or so. This keeps the stem from bending towards the strongest light source. After the initial watering, do not water again during the first week. For the following two weeks the soil should be kept only slightly moist by adding tepid water around the bulb if necessary and any water found standing in the saucer should be emptied out. Over-watering will inhibit root formation. A slightly dry medium will stimulate re-growth of the root system. Once the flower stalk is well out of the bulb, water more frequently. See the section on “Timing at home” for detail on how to have your Hippeastrum in flower over a certain date.
Faded blooms may be pulled away from the top of the stalk by breaking the pedicels (small stalks between main stem and each flower). Should you wish to maintain the plant after flowering, for re-growth and blooming next year transfer it to the garden in a sunny position. In the garden bed water every 4 days, in a pot every 2 days. Feed it with bulb food and old compost occasionally. If necessary, stake the foliage and stalks. Keep the bulb well-watered and fed until late Autumn. Then stop watering and allow the bulb to enter dormancy. You may leave the bulb in the garden if that location is expected to receive little or no water through the winter. Alternatively, lift the bulb, pot and all and place it on its side in a dry, dark, cool place. A temperature of around 13°C ideal. Allow the bulb to enjoy a well-earned rest, without food or water for three months. After this period, cut off the old foliage. Remove the bulb from the pot and wash the bulb and the roots carefully in water. Now repeat the planting process as before. With proper care it will flower again in spring.