What makes Amaryllis hybrids bloom? and more

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Thu, 27 Aug 2009 07:37:28 PDT
I've been away so missed this discussion. Where I live we have a lot more 
rain than in the San Francisco Bay area or Southern California. But in the 
20 years we have lived here the average rainfall has dropped significantly. 
Following the discussions over the years about what makes these bloom, I 
have yet to find an answer that works for me. The species blooms all over 
the place along the north coast of California without any summer rainfall 
or additional water. I'm not sure you can count the fog as making much 
difference either since if you put your fingers in the soil, it is bone dry 
even after foggy days except for the very top of the soil. It may be better 
some years than others and when they bloom seems to vary. This year it was 
earlier with most of them in the fading stages now. The ones I have in my 
garden show no signs of life at all. As for the hybrids I grow I detected 
one spike starting yesterday in a part of my garden that gets no summer 
water at all. In other areas of the garden that get a little water so far 

In the last rainy season we got the lowest amount of rain since we have 
lived here, (about 32 inches or 81cm.), but we had good rain in May after a 
long dry period. I can't remember when the leaves of my plants died down, 
but I expect it was sometime after that. I hear next year is supposed to be 
an El Nino year. In previous El Nino years we had significant rainfall 
(like 90 to 100 inches- 228 to 254 cm.) a couple of those years so perhaps 
we'll have a chance to compare. And usually all that rainfall comes with 
temperatures below freezing only occasionally, certainly not enough to 
damage the leaves. I wasn't growing Amaryllis hybrids then, but I would 
suspect that too much rain wouldn't be better.

When my plants bloom they do not usually all bloom at the same time, just 
like my Nerine hybrids that are in bloom for two to three months and 
showing no signs of life yet. This may have to do with how much sun they 
get which is no doubt a significant factor as discussed in earlier posts. 
There are probably a lot of factors at play which is why we haven't been 
able to come up with definitive advice. I'm still hoping that at least some 
of them may bloom.

I was excited yesterday to see a first bloom on Haemanthus barkerae, grown 
from seed started in 2002 and growing in a container in a raised bed 
unprotected from the elements, unlike most of my Haemanthus. I'm 
notoriously poor at fertilizing which may be the reason it was so slow. 
Also the Oxalis are showing signs of life and some are even blooming and 
the first green leaves of Moraea polystachya are up. I also had better 
blooming this summer from Eucomis. Usually I only see the leaves and that 
was still true of a couple of pots. The ones I planted out have never 
bloomed but probably don't get enough water in the ground. I have no idea 
why I had more blooms this year.

This time of the year when the bulbs start growing again for me I get 
really excited and I forget all those thoughts that I have to be totally 
crazy that occur during the summer when I am repotting.

Mary Sue

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

More information about the pbs mailing list