By Nikki Phipps
The Belladonna lily is a bulbous plant with several strap-like, dull green leaves. Learn how to grow amaryllis bulbs and take advantage of this plant’s interesting blooms.
Amaryllis Plant Info
Amaryllis is a monotypic (only one species) genus containing the Belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna), a native of South Africa. It is often confused with the Hippeastrum, a flowering bulb commonly sold for indoor blooming. The confusion surrounds the scientific name, Hippeastrum, and the common name, Amaryllis. Hippeastrum is known worldwide as Amaryllis and is composed of several species, while Amaryllis belladonna is the only species in the genus, Amaryllis. Hippeastrum has 4-6 large flowers on a hollow stem; while Amaryllis belladonna has 2-12 smaller flowers on a solid stem.
The leaves of the Belladonna lily are produced in the fall and die down by late spring. The bulb is then dormant until late summer. By this time, the bulb produces one or two naked stems, each of which bear a cluster of 2-12 trumpet-shaped, fragrant flowers, ranging from white, pink or purple in color.
It was named after a beautiful shepherdess in Greek mythology. Amaryllis means ‘sparkling.’ The specific epithet belladonna means beautiful lady. Amaryllis belladonna has many common names. For example, in the United Kingdom it is known as the Belladonna or Jersey lily. In South Africa it is known as the March lily. And in the United States the flower is referred to as the Naked Lady. Amaryllis belladonna has also been called St. Joseph’s Staff in Portugal, St. Rosalina in Sicily, and the Madonna lily in Italy. Within the country of Spain, one might hear it referred to as ‘Meninas Para Escola’, meaning ‘girls going to school’ because they bloom at the beginning of the school year, when girls in pink uniforms start attending classes.
Amaryllis Belladonna Planting
In its natural habitat, Amaryllis belladonna is found in dense groups among rocks. Therefore, the best place to plant them would be in a rock garden. They can also be grown between a ground cover or mixed border.
The Belladonna lily can also be grown in large containers, preferably something sized like a 5-gallon bucket. Plant the bulbs 4 inches deep in well-drained soil within a sunny location. The bulbs must be planted with their necks at soil level. Plant each bulb by itself, allowing plenty of room to multiply – about 8-12 inches apart. Apply about an inch or two of mulch such as wood chips, bark, or even compost.
This bulb can also tolerate dry conditions; in fact, they are highly tolerant of drought and require little watering due to their extensive fleshy root systems and large bulbs. Dig the bulbs before frost and store them in damp peat moss or sand during the winter. Large clumps of bulbs can be divided from the mother bulb during this dormant period. The bulbs and offsets can be planted immediately.