Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Wed, 08 Dec 2004 20:20:06 PST
Dear All,

Are there any others in our group who grow Haemanthus? I hope you will 
share your experiences.

My first experience was buying a plant at our local nursery. It is very 
unusual for there to be any kind of an unusual bulb for sale where I live 
so of course I was forced to buy it just to give them courage to offer 
others in the future. I didn't grow any Haemanthus at all at the time. It 
was a cross between H. albiflos and H. coccineus. When it bloomed I was 
thrilled. Unfortunately the new leaves began to have that virused look 
about them. I kept it on for another season and it bloomed again, but the 
leaves kept looking worse and worse so sadly I destroyed it. In August 2003 
we observed Haemanthus albiflos that looked virused at Kirstenbosch (at 
least most of us thought it looked that way). There were a number of plants 
growing together and they didn't all look virused. Later in our trip we saw 
a population of Haemanthus in the wild with leaves that also looked 
virused. The plants were expanding nicely. Rod Saunders who was with us 
said you'd expect to find populations in the wild that would be virused. I 
am wondering how common virus is in Haemanthus. In my case and the two I 
saw in South Africa, it didn't seem to be killing the plants, but mainly 
affecting the appearance.

Doug Westfall kindly gave me some seeds of Haemanthus albiflos after I told 
him of my interest. I was able to germinate about 1/2 of them and protected 
them for a year or so and eventually put them on a ledge in the shade and 
the birds finished off most of them along with two Scadoxus seedlings from 
two Scadoxus seeds he had also given me. I was so disappointed. It seemed 
my ability to grow Haemanthus was not very good.

When we visited Rhoda and Cameron the first time, I got some more seeds of 
Haemanthus albiflos and I've done much better with those although they have 
never bloomed. They were looking super this year so I think it might be 
just a matter of time however. Someone (birds again probably) took a couple 
of big bites out of the leaves towards the end of summer making me wonder 
if it will ever be safe to grow them out of my greenhouse.

I have two plants left from Doug's original gift and one of them doesn't 
look like any of my other Haemanthus albiflos so either it is something 
else or a hybrid. Most of the time it only has one leaf, but has two at the 
moment. I found it very helpful for Cameron to explain how usually plants 
have one or two leaves, but those that are evergreen can have more when the 
new leaves come out.

When Jennifer Hildebrand organized a group order from Cameron and Rhoda in 
February 2003, I ordered Haemanthus coccineus. I was so impressed with the 
high quality of what I received that when Jen offered to do an order of the 
summer rainfall species too, I purchased H. montanus and H. deformis. All 
of these plants have done really well and I believe they have adjusted to 
my hemisphere. Being transplanted didn't seem to be a problem. Like Rob 
Hamilton my H. montanus once it got turned around has been green longer 
than you'd expect. It isn't dying back yet at all. None of them have 
bloomed however. Paul Tyerman' seeds of H. coccineus germinated really 
well, but only 3 of them are up again. I didn't look to see if there are 
others that are acting like some of Rob's Amaryllids and skipping the year, 
but I am hoping they are still there.

I have seedlings of H. barkerae from Silverhill that are growing slowly, 
but may be suffering from what Jim Shields has described as premature 
transplanting. I also purchased H. paucifolius from Telos and it hasn't 
bloomed, but has just made an offset.

Rounding out are two other species that I purchased from Gordon Summerfield 
early this year so they were also on the wrong hemisphere: H. canaliculatus 
and H. amarylloides ssp. toximontana. The former grew a little and then 
went dormant and I'm not very hopeful about it, but the latter is still 
green so perhaps it will survive. I started them both in big pots even 
though they looked a bit overwhelmed so I wouldn't have to transplant them.

It was so helpful to have Cameron's introduction because I had no idea 
which were evergreen, which deciduous and which to keep dry when and which 
always to keep moist. Now I have written that information on tags and added 
them to the pots.

I had a couple of seeds that were supposed to be H. sanguineus, but the 
leaves look like a Scadoxus so I think there may have been a mix-up.

If any of you are still reading this to get to my questions, I am wondering 
if all of the species are equally unhappy with being transplanted as my 
experience seems mixed. Do some people grow these in the ground or mostly 
in containers? How big a container do they need? Gordon Summerfield 
suggested one to a container and in some of my others I had two in a 
container. Would it be better in line with what Jim S. is saying to keep 
the two together than split them out until they are bigger? Do most people 
find they have blooms once the plants get to be a certain size or do they 
skip a year or more? Do I need to provide extra heat to any of these in 
summer to make them feel at home? Rob, Gordon advised me to water the ones 
I got from him if they were green and only withhold water once the leaves 
started to die back.

Mary Sue

Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers

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