Plant Collector – Hippeastrum aulicum


Hippeastrum aulicum

Hippeastrum aulicum

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.

A colourful woodland plant - H. aulicum

A colourful woodland plant – H. aulicum

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.

2 thoughts on “Plant Collector – Hippeastrum aulicum

  1. Katherine

    Being relatively new to gardening (shifted to 1 acre property with a coastal garden with good bones) I am seeing Spring with new eyes. I recently visited a display garden and was smitten with both the red and white varigated and solid red hippeastrum, both planted in shade. I’m establishing a ‘woodland’ walkway under camelia trees. Question – would the hippeastrum be a good mass under plant with dappled light? If yes, when is best planting time and how do I not go broke trying to get a mass look since I don’t have several decades of life in my own bones! Cheers, Kath

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Great idea but there are good reasons why it is not more common. You need either a fat wallet to buy the bulbs in quantity or patience and skill to propagate your own. Hippeastrums are not a quick crop which is why they are often expensive to buy.

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