Amaryllis 'Multiflora' bloom report

Michael Mace
Sun, 14 Sep 2003 17:54:45 PDT

I haven't posted to the list for a long time, for which I apologize.  I have
been hanging out and reading, though, and it has been really interesting.

One of the reasons I haven't posted is because I didn't have much to say.  I
do have a little to share about this year's Amaryllis 'Multiflora' crop,
though.  Here goes...

This is turning out to be an extraordinary bloom year.  In most years, at
best about 40% of the bulbs have bloomed.  This year I'd say the ratio is
closer to 80%.  I'm getting flowers from bulbs that hadn't bloomed in five

I have no idea what made the difference this time.  I didn't water the bulbs
more heavily than usual during the summer, and although we had a couple of
bouts of humid weather, we didn't get appreciable rain.

Oh well, I'm not complaining -- I'm getting the chance to reacquaint myself
with some flowers I hadn't seen for a long time, and doing my best to make
some interesting crosses.

Because everything's in bloom at once, I can do a lot more comparing between
flowers than I had in the past.  It's giving me a good overview of the range
of these flowers (at least the ones I have):


There are two basic types of white -- those with and without yellow in the
throat.  I don't think I have any flowers with no yellow whatsoever, but in
many of them it's so pale that you barely notice it.  In one of the flowers
blooming this year, though, the yellow center is very strong.  If it were
any darker you'd call it gold.

It makes me wonder if somebody could eventually breed a 'Multiflora' that's
all yellow.  That'd be interesting!  (On the other hand, genetics is moving
so fast that I bet someone will gene-splice this before we can breed it.)

Pinks range from very pale sugar pink just at the tips of the flowers to
dark solid pink on the outer 2/3 of the flower.  The pink color always
shades to white or yellow in the throat of the flower.

Most of the flowers darken as they age, with the outer parts of the flowers
getting darker pink and the throats darkening as well.  I wonder if that's
some sort of signal to insects.  The color appears to darken as the flower
finishes shedding its pollen.

One very interesting exception to this pattern is a bulb that bloomed for me
for the first time this year (it came from Mr. Hannibal).  This one starts
off with pink on the outer third and white in the center, but as it ages the
outer part of the flower turns white and the inside turns mid-pink.  The
pattern is very striking from a distance -- a pink circle surrounded by a
white circle, just like a bull's-eye.  Has anyone else on the list ever seen
this before in these flowers?

The degree of streaking in the pink varies a lot.  Several of the flowers
show very prominent veins, and some have a bit of a central stripe at the
tip of each petal.  The veins usually fade to solid deep pink as the flower

Time of blooming

Early vs. late seems to be very consistent from year to year -- the plants
that are early one year are early every year.  There's a lot of variation;
some of mine have already finished completely this year, while a few are
just now putting up buds.

Size and shape of flowers

There's some variation in the amount of ruffling the flowers have.  None of
them are strongly frilly, but a few have more waviness than the others.
From a distance, this makes the flower heads look fuller, so I guess it's

Size also appears to be consistent from year to year.  Most of the flowers
are standard Amaryllis-height, but a few are about half-height.  I guess
there's a chance that the smaller ones are just in exposures that make them
grow smaller.  I will have to try moving some of them to different spots.

Shape of flower head

This is where there's also a lot of variation.  Flower head shape falls into
three basic groups:

Most are very one-sided, with the flowers facing in one direction, spread
across about a 90 degree angle, toward the sun.

Some spread their flowers up to about 180 degrees, again roughly centered on
the sun.

A few spread the flowers almost into a full circle, like a wagon wheel.
This is pretty striking when you see it next to the others.

The interesting thing I'm finding is that there appears to be some year to
year variation in the radialness (?) of the flower heads.  A couple that I
had marked as half-radial came out more fully circular this year.

In my own amateur way, I'm trying to cross-breed some of the best
characteristics of these flowers -- radialness, color, frilliness.  (For
example, it would be nice to see if we could combine the yellow throat of
one of the white flowers with a pink that turns dark at the center as it
ages.  Would we get a flower that ages to a true red color?)  Since it takes
years to get new bulbs to bloom, I don't know yet if I'm having any success
at all.  We'll see...

Storing seeds

The other thing I'm learning is just how tough 'Multiflora' seeds are when
refrigerated.  Two years ago, I mistakenly left a plastic baggie of mixed
'Multiflora' seeds in the back of the refrigerator.  They stayed there for
more than a year, untouched.

I found them 18 months later, in mid-winter of the second year.  Maybe a
quarter of them had died and turned to brown mush.  The inside of the bag
was pretty damp, I'd almost say wet.  But the rest of the seeds had not
rotted.  They had put out white sprouts that extended about half an inch to
an inch long, and were just sitting there waiting.

I took them to a shady and damp spot outside, raked loose some dirt, mixed
them into it, and watered.

To my surprise, a huge number of the seeds survived and put up
healthy-looking leaves.  I won't know for a few months how they did during
the summer, but I have feeling a lot of them made it.

My point here is not that you should try to do this sort of long-term
storage on purpose (remember, I lost a lot of the seeds).  But it is
possible, if you ever need to give it a try.

San Jose, CA (zone 9, min temp 20F)

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