The amaryllis, also known as Hippeastrum, is a real star of December. The sparkling flower brings warmth to cold days and is therefore on the Flower Agenda this month.

The amaryllis is a bulb plant from the Amaryllidaceae family and is particularly known for its enormous flowers. The genus consists of some 70 to 75 species and more than 600 hybrids and cultivars. You can find the amaryllis growing wild in the (sub-)tropical regions of Mexico and the Caribbean down as far as northern Argentina. Because of its bare stem the flower is also known as Naked Lady in North America.

All sorts of crossbreeding has resulted in Amaryllis groups based on the shape of the flower: Galaxy Grp, Diamond Grp, Colibri Grp, Double Galaxy Grp, Double Diamond Grp, Double Colibri Grp, Butterfly Grp, Trumpet Grp and the Spider Grp including the Cybisters with orchid or spider varieties. Because of the Christmas association, you will most readily think of the colours red and white for amaryllis, but the colour spectrum has expanded massively in recent years. There are now also purple, pink, yellow, green and various bicoloured flowers. The hollow stem is 50-60 cm long and 3-5 cm wide. The bulbs are planted in greenhouses to harvest flowers from them. Depending on the variety, the plant produces 2 to 6 large flowers at the top, with six brightly coloured petals.

What to look for when buying amaryllis 

  • - Check the length and the number of buds per stem.
  • - The stage of ripeness is expressed in stages from 1 to 5, as with all cut flowers.
  • - The flowers are usually supply dry in a box, and stored cool at 5°C.
  • - Like all flowers, the amaryllis flower should be free of pests and disease when purchased. Look out for botrytis when buying.
  • - Also check that the sepals are not wilted, dried, crumpled, glazed or discoloured.
  • - The stems are sometimes weak, snapped or dried out. This means that the flowers have been stored dry too long.

Care tips for professionals

  • - Trim a couple of centimetres off the stems with a sharp knife.
  • - Place the flowers in clean buckets or vases with clean water.
  • - Add special bulb flower preservative which will ensure that the flowers open well.
  • - The flowers should not be allowed to get damp as a result of excessive humidity or condensation. This can cause the fungus botrytis.
  • - You can store amaryllises dry in the cold store at 5-6°C, but not too long to avoid the stems drying out.
  • - The tearing and curling of the end of the stem is a distinctive amaryllis characteristic. You can prevent this by wrapping a small piece of tape around the bottom of the stem.
  • - When creating bouquets and floral work it’s a good idea to insert a skewer into the hollow stem to support the heavy flowers.
  • - When working with oasis it’s a good idea to prepare the hole before inserting the flower.
  • - Do not place amaryllises in a draught, near a source of heat or beside the fruit bowl. The ripening fruit releases ethylene, which accelerates the ageing of the flowers.

Display tips for professionals
Use the sleek long amaryllis stems as a feature in an arrangement. You can create attractive Christmas bouquets and arrangements by combining amaryllis with bare branches such as Cornus or Salix, with Ilex verticillata (deciduous ivy) or with forced shrubs such as Viburnum or Syringa.One creative option is to hang the flowers upside down from several branches to create a hanging arrangement as a sort of alternative Christmas tree. If you pour water into the stems the flowers will bloom fully. If you insert an accentuating cut flower like a rose or gerbera in the stem as well, it becomes a real show-stopper.

Care tips for customers

  • - Trim the amaryllis stems diagonally.
  • - Select a sturdy glass vase.
  • - Make sure that the vase is nice and clean, fill it with water and use cut flower food for bulb flowers.
  • - Place the vase in a reasonably cool spot, not in a draught or next to the fruit bowl.
  • - Regularly top the vase up with tap water.