Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hippeastrum 'Mocca' -- Cut Flower Variety

Hippeastrum 'Mocca' is very beautiful hybrid and I thought it deserved a post of its own!  This hybrid is typically used for cut flowers and isn't sold as dry bulbs, I'm not actually sure why as it's so incredibly beautiful. 

I think it's apparent that H. papilio holds the key to some of the genetic qualities of this hybrid, just look at the veining from the lighter colored midribs that extends to the end of the tepals.  Hopefully this plant grows as well as H. papilio which is a quite common species sold in the dry bulb market. 

I also think it's possible to attribute some of this hybrids coloration towards Hippeastrum evansiae, the brown/pink colors are often found in this species if given correct lighting and temperatures during blooming periods.  Some clones of H. evansiae show quite a bit of pink whereas some show none at all.  There are some clones which are almost entirely pink! 

Once 'Mocca' has matured the flowers take on the charismatic appearance of  H. papilio's famous "Butterfly Wings", they wave and twist and appear almost as ruffled doilies.  This also adds to the beauty that is 'Mocca'.   'Mocca' also has incredibly tall scapes, measuring in at 2.5ft. I am sure this is an obvious necessity for cut flowers.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Buying Hippeastrum Hybrids -- The Holiday Amaryllis

Hippeastrum 'Exotic Star'
It's the time of year where Hippeastrum, or improperly called 'Amaryllis', are sold for the Holidays!  There are many hybrids to choose from and even a few species distributed as hybrids, Hippeastrum papilio and Hippeastrum 'Chico' cybister are both selections of species sold in the dry, forced bulb market.  Most Hippeastrum bulbs are sold with the intent to be throw away plants, many people think these bulbs bloom one time and the show is over, this is far from the truth.  Hippeastrum can be brought fto bloom in many years to come with minimal care.

Important Issues For Buying Hippeastrum
  1. If buying from an online source make sure they're reputable, this is a great way to ensure you have a company that will ship healthy bulbs.  Sometimes buying cheap isn't necessarily better, many times a cheap bulb will result in disease and or physically damaged bulbs (but not always).  There may be sales towards the end of the season, remember these bulbs will possibly have scapes growing but this is a good time to buy Hippeastrum as they'll be marked down usually 50% or more!  IF YOU GET A BULB IN BAD HEALTH YOU MUST LET THE RETAILER KNOW.  It isn't fair to the customer to spend a large amount of money to receive a bulb in bad health with large amounts of rot.  Remember, shipping during colder months can result in damaged bulbs, this isn't the retailers fault, you must know the risks of shipping tender bulbs in cold weather.
  2. If you're buying bulbs where you can inspect them yourself you've got the upper hand, there are no shipping charges, you can pick your size and inspect for rot, disease, insects or bent or broken scapes.  A downside to buying Hippeastrum from big box stores are selection, usually they only stock the most universally known hybrids, 'Minerva', 'Red Lion' and 'Appleblossom' are common choices you'll find.  I've personally noted many of the hybrids offered in these "Big Box" stores as virus laden, they buy the cheapest bulbs from the distributors to ensure they'll make profit, many times this will prove to be harmful for the customer by selling plants with virus.  Many plant viruses are incurable.  For this reason I suggest buying your bulbs from local nurseries or plant specialty stores, this not only supports your local business but it supports these very rare plant nurseries that are close to extinction!  
  3. It's important to make sure you USE POTS WITH DRAINAGE HOLES, many of the boxed bulb kits with pots and medium included are nothing you'll want to put your plants in.  Hippeastrum bulbs are incredibly prone to rot and a pot without drainage holes are not something you'd want to use when planting up your new, beautiful bulbs.  I would recommend using unglazed terracotta pots but plastic and glazed will work as well if they have drainage holes in the bottom.
  4. Using the medium that most include in their boxed kits can result in water logged plants, these mixes of coconut coir are very slow draining and hold quite a bit of moisture.  As stated above, Hippeastrum bulbs are very prone to rot, once they've started rotting it's hard to stop the cycle, it includes lots of hard work and effort.  It's best to avoid these circumstances so that we can ensure health in out potted plants!  I would suggest a very fast draining mix, something like an orchid mix with a little perlite and humus would work well, just remember these plants need air for their roots and bulbs for healthy plants.
Hippeastrum 'Flamenco Queen'
Hopefully you don't find this information hard to take in, it's imperative to follow if you want healthy plants.  Continuing the bloom cycle requires good quality bulbs, pots and potting medium as well as successful growing the seasons before. It's also important to meet the growing requirements of Hippeastrum.  Hippeastrum need lots of sunlight, water and food. After they have bloomed put them in a bright window and water once the potting medium feels dry.  You can stick your finger into the medium about an inch down and if it feels consistently dry it's time for water.  I fertilize my bulbs at every watering, I use 1/4 the recommended dosage to get the best results.  You can grow Hippeastrum like any other houseplant, if you have a spot outside during spring and summer months I would suggest utilizing it for your Hippeastrum.  They cannot tolerate frost so make sure you keep them inside during the colder months.

Hopefully these tips can help you to grow your Hippeastrum for following seasons, remember it's very important to pick large and healthy bulbs, using pots with drainage holes and medium that drains quickly.  You should continue to grow your Hippeastrum like any other houseplants, they need lots of lighting, food and water (but not too much) and make sure you ENJOY THEM!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hippeastrum striatum --- A Miniature Species

Hippeastrum striatum is a beautiful species from Brazil and Argentina with spectacular orange flowers that measure only a few inches across.  This species has been used extensively for breeding small/miniature or as called the "sonatini" Hippeastrum.  There are many hybrids that have distinct characteristics of H. striatum such as: 'Voodoo', 'Christmas Star' and 'Piccolo'. A wonderful benefit of using H. striatum in breeding is that it passes the ability to mature very quickly in its progeny and only requires a bulb the size of a small kiwi fruit to bloom (in most cases).

There are lots of variation within' this species and quite a few synonyms such as rutilum, flugida, crocatum and several others.  It's a large debate whether H. petiolatum and H. striatum are the same species, their growing habits and flowers have very similar charecteristics.

This clone and many others are self-fertile, sadly it only produces two flowers per scape, a common trait amongst Hippeastrum species  It seems to bloom twice a year at minimum, once in Spring and usually once in late Fall, this would be spectacular if passed into its progeny as the Hippeastrum flowering season is short lived.  H. striatum is quite easy to cultivate: it resists rot well, it blooms very regularly, it tolerates frost and grows just as well in full sun as it does in partial shade. I would suggest this species for those interested in growing Hippeastrum, it's quite rewarding!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hippeastrum aulicum -- Epiphytic Species From The Atlantic Forest

Hippeastrum aulicum is a very robust species from the Atlantic Forest in Brazil; this species in particular is from Sao Paulo State.  H. aulicum has a large distribution in South Brazil stretching through several states.  There is a variety of different forms as well.  Currently I grow H. aulicum var robustum, 'Biritiba', 'Quiririm' and a very nice pink form which I got from a great friend in Argentina!  I've seen pictures of his in bloom and WOW! is all I can say, they're actually pink! 

H. aulicum is an epiphytic species and is found growing in trees but is also found growing on rocks or in plant litter on the forest floor.  I think that the fact it grows in a multitude of areas naturally makes for a much stronger, easy to grow plant.  This is a species which I do recommend most beginners who are interested in growing Hippeastrum species, it's readily available and quite easy from seed.

I plan to eventually mount a bulb or two on a wood plank to see how will it will grow, H. aulicum has very fiborous roots that will cling to wood surfaces. I know of others who have mounted H. papilio in such a manner and it has thrived, H. papilio is also an epipytic species from the Atlantic Forest.  H. aulicum and H. papilio are closely related, I see many charecteristics in both species that are very similar, if you looks closely the bottom segment it creates a tube that houses the filaments, this is also observed in H. papilio.

   It has actually be stated by the late Len Doran that H. papilio was a hybrid that produces seed true to the parent plant that is expected withing a species, if this is the case I assume that H. aulicum or H. calyptratum (epiphytic as well) have some role in the parentage considering the epiphytic nature of H. papilio.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Griffinia liboniana -- Endemic To Brazil

Griffinia liboniana is a beautiful small plant endemic to Brazil in the Atlantic Forest that has striking blue colored flowers rarely found in Amaryllidaceae.  Griffinia contains about twenty one species and several varieties with the most desirable being from the sub-genus Hyline containing  G. gardneriana and G. nocturna which flowers are incredibly short lived but highly fragrant.

Griffinia liboniana
Some species contain the white spots such as G. liboniana as well as a few others, a new species has been found with pink spotting making it quite different from the group, little is known of this new species and only a few have seen pictures but I assure you that it's truly pink!

Griffinia liboniana is free flowering and if well grown can bloom several times a year.  G. liboniana likes a very organic mix that drains fairly well but it's important that the medium is kept moist as the plants can decline quite fast if left to dry for a period of time.  The medium should feel like a well wrung sponge with just a hint of moisture.  Some grow Griffinia species in pure Sphagnum Moss while I grow mine in a Sphagnum/Bark/Perlite mixture at even parts.

Griffinia species grow amongst the forest floor which is littered with plant debris and handles very low light levels making it a prime candidate for houseplant culture.  Sadly Griffinia aren't too common in cultivation but with recent breeding work by Kevin Preuss hopefully this changes in the future.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hippeastrum papilio x brasilianum -- A Fragrant Semi-Trumpet Bloom

Hippeastrum papilio x brasilianum -- This is a wonderful cross of H. papilio and H. brasilianum that really shows the progeny of both species quite well!  There are between 3-4 blooms usually on each scape that are fragrant as a result of using H. brasilianum. The higher flower count is also inherited from it's father, H. brasilianum which usually carries four flowers per scape.  Hippeastrum papilio is much less giving with two flowers per scape, I have seen a wonderful clone that has a three flower count which is quite rare!  Hippeastrum papilio is vividly expressed in the bloom with many like characteristics such as the green cast on the tepals, the cranberry markings and overall coloring where as brasilianum adds a semi-trumpet shape to the bloom and creates some intriguing twists and turns with the tepals!

Hippeastrum papilio x brasilianum
F1 cross
Overall I think this bloom is a winner, it's a strong growing plant and fragrant as an added bonus (which isn't all too common in Hippeastrum), I will enjoy this bulb for quite some time!  The leaves are glaucous with a rounded tip, the bulb has an ovoid shape with a short neck with very tall scapes.  The bulb is self fertile, it would be great to see what the offspring may look like!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hippeastrum ferreyrae -- An Endangered Peruvian Species

Hippeastrum ferreyrae is one of Peru's native endangered plants according to the 1997 IUCN's Red List, this may not be the case now as it has been fourteen years since being published.  While we all hope that H. ferreyrae has increased in population the likeliness of this is quite slim.  Thank goodness this plant is being grown by a few others and it is possible we have different clones to produce seed.  Of course I will try to self pollinate but the outcome of it producing seed with its own pollen isn't great as most Hippeastrum are not self fertile. 

Hippeastrum ferreyrae is native to Peruvian forests at around 150-200m in elevation and is also found in quite a few Peruvian gardens around the native area.  They bloom usually in September in the Southern Hemisphere and obviously my plant has yet to switch it's growing period to the Northern Hemisphere but it's quite nice to have something bloom when everything else is slowing down for the year!

Hippeastrum ferreyrae
 H. ferreyrae can bloom from incredibly small bulbs, the bulbs can grow to a substantial size and usually only have 2-3 flowers per scape.  The bulbs generally have short necks and leaf out following the blooming period.  The coloring of the flowers could almost be mistaken for a pink but they're a salmon color to almost a red with a luminescent overcast on the petals.  They flowers aren't large by any means but they're not small with the pollen being a nice golden yellow at anthesis.  It seems to be a prolific off setter as is it's very close relative Hippeastrum puniceum.