At this time of the year the big red flowers of Hippeastrum aulicum look like Jacobean lilies. We use it as a woodland plant because our past experience is that narcissi fly can devastate hippeastrums planted in the sun but the flies don’t go into the shaded areas to lay their eggs in the crowns of the bulbs. It takes a while for the bulbs to get large enough to flower but they are happy to be planted and left alone, gently increasing year by year so, after several decades, we have large clumps of them which oblige with gorgeous blooms in spring, standing 60 to 70cm high on strong stems. With us, they are completely evergreen though they may drop their foliage in harsher conditions.
Just for a change, the hippeastrum family doesn’t come from South Africa which is home to the majority of bulbs that we grow successfully here. Instead they hail from South America and this particular one is native to Brazil and Paraguay. H. aulicum is a species and not widely available though the curious H.papilio is sometimes offered for sale (expect to pay about $30 for a single, flowering sized bulb) and there are many hybrids which are brightly coloured, big flowered things for growing in containers. I am not so keen on the hybrids, papilio is less obliging as a garden plant but aulicum is both exotic to look at and a consistent performer.