Beautiful Butterfly

Hippeastrum papilio, butterfly amaryllisButterfly Amaryllis: This beautiful plant, Hippeastrum papilio,  is not as well known as the amaryllis plant that many people enjoy giving and receiving as gifts during the holidays. Those amaryllis (common name) are actually Hippeastrum too! There is a bit of taxonomical confusion going on here, as the Hippeastrum were previously in the genus Amaryllis, but now are separate. Hippeastrum are the bulbs which originate from South America, and Amaryllis are those which originate from Africa. The amaryllis we enjoy during the holidays as well as the subject here, Butterfly Amaryllis, are all Hippeastrum….from the Greek words for “horse star”, in reference to the large star shaped flowers.

In any event, the Butterfly Amaryllis is an unusual flower, with maroon markings on greenish white petals. Grey anthers stand out from the flower. The foliage is bright green, smooth, and satiny.  The name “Butterfly” comes from the shape of the two upper petals which stand out to the sides, resembling the wings of a butterfly. Papilio is from the Latin word for butterfly.

Although it flowered a few weeks ago, the Butterfly Amaryllis in the greenhouse is flowering again. These plants do not need the dry dormant period that the Holiday Hippeastrum (new name?!) do, and so they are easier to care for. Keep them “crowded” in the pot, with one- to two-thirds of the bulb above the soil. Water the soil and keep it moist, without getting water on the actual bulb (This is true for the other amaryllis as well). Usually they will flower in late winter/early spring. During the rest of the year, they will remain a pleasing foliage plant, photosynthesizing and building up the bulb for next year’s flowering. After a few years side bulbs may develop, which can be left with the mother plant for a fuller flowering display. Or, separate them into their own pots to eventually flower on their own.

The better known “Florist’s Amaryllis”/Hippeastrum can be challenging to keep through the year for re-flowering during the holidays. This article from the United States National Arboretum explains what they need in order to bloom again.


One thought on “Beautiful Butterfly

  1. Bonnie

    “Florist amaryllis” are not at all difficult to bloom. All they need is a ten week “dormancy” and to be fed while they’re growing and they’ll bloom every year. I have more than three dozen. I ought to know.


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