Plant Collector: Hippeastrum papilio

The exotic looking Hippeastrum papilio

The exotic looking Hippeastrum papilio

Papilio is Latin for butterfly, though it would be a pretty spectacular butterfly to rival this lovely bulb from Brazil. I think it is more orchid-like in its markings and colouring of burgundy, green and cream. In fact it is positively exotic and is a showstopper if you can get it flowering in the garden.

Hippeastrums are often misnamed as amaryllis. They belong to the Amaryllidaceae family but that does not make them amaryllis – that would be like saying parsley is the same as carrot because they come from the same botanical family. H. papilio is a species (which is as it occurs in the wild) although much hybridising has been done within the wider hippeastrum family to get spectacular named cultivars for showy pot plants. It grows from large bulbs and there are usually two flowers to each stem, each bloom being about 18cm across and held up well, without needing support.

The biggest problem here is the dreaded narcissi fly which lays its eggs at the base of the leaves. The larvae hatch and burrow down, eating the bulb from inside out. For this reason, we grow H. papilio as a woodland plant in a raised bed rich in humus. The narcissi fly seem to prefer the sunshine. The raised bed means excellent drainage which solves the other problem which is the bulbs rotting out in wet and cold winter conditions. We find it is largely evergreen here, keeping its foliage all year in normal conditions.

The bulbs are large and slow to increase so best left undisturbed for several years. H. papilio is sometimes offered for sale in garden centres but be prepared to pay a fair amount for it because it can take several years to get the bulb to flowering size.

The other hippeastrum species that we have great success with in the garden here is the beautiful winter flowering H. aulicum, also from Brazil.

3 thoughts on “Plant Collector: Hippeastrum papilio

  1. Pingback: hippeastrum papilio: ein scheitern » zimmerpflanzen pflege

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