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Six Ways to Distinguish Amaryllis from Hippeastrum

Amaryllis or hippeastrum? If you think that the difference between these popular flowers is insignificant, then you are deeply mistaken. Only one of them can grow outdoors in the garden. The biggest challenge and luck for a gardener is to distinguish real amaryllis from hippeastrum. How to do that? Let’s figure out.

Why It Is Difficult to Distinguish Amaryllis from Hippeastrum

Most of the supposed “Ama” bulbs that appear on sale in the fall and winter are bulbs of hybrid varieties of hippeastrum. Hippeastrum was once referred to as the genus Amaryllis as these plants are similar in many ways. Nowadays, “hippo” is defined as a separate species that belong to the general family of Amaryllis. The confusion was also caused by the fact that most varieties of “hippo” were obtained by crossing it with amaryllis, and these hybrids came into use under this name. Many firms, including Dutch ones, sell them under the name “amaryllis (hippeastrum).” For example, amaryllis double flowers (hippeastrum) can be found on the platform.

For indoor cultivation, it is not so important which flower you will choose. But for outdoor growing under European conditions, the only suitable amaryllis is the one whose homeland is the Cape province in South Africa where the natural conditions are corresponding. Meanwhile, “hippo” comes from the tropics and subtropics of South America. It is too delicate, so it is placed in the garden only for the summer. By the way, outdoor keeping contributes to its better flowering and the development of bulbs.

How to Distinguish Amaryllis from Hippeastrum

If you don’t have any experience of growing these flowers at home or in your garden, you need to know these six ways how to distinguish these flowers from each other:

  1. Flowers. “Ama” flowers are smaller and more graceful, and the petals are thinner than those of hippeastrum.
  2. Inflorescence. There are usually 8-12 flowers in the “ama” inflorescence, and hippeastrum usually has 1-6.
  3. Peduncle. Amaryllis, it is filled with dense tissues, while in “hippo,” it is hollow (empty inside).
  4. Blooming. “Ama” blooms without leaves, while “hippos” leaves usually appear together with peduncles.
  5. Bulbils. “Ama” forms bulbils annually, while hippeastrum gives babies irregularly.
  6. Bulbs. “Ama” bulbs are pear-shaped, elongated upward, covered with dry sandy scales, with an average diameter of 5-6 cm, but no more than 10 cm. The bulbs of real amaryllis appear on sale in the middle of summer, during the period of rest. The classic “hippo” bulb resembles a turnip in shape and is 5-10 cm in diameter. Of course, in hippeastrum hybrids, the listed signs may not be obvious.

Modern varieties of these species are so numerous and diverse that it is difficult to remain indifferent when choosing a blooming friend for yourself. Meanwhile, we recommend you to focus on the place for planting: choose amaryllis for your garden and hippeastrum for indoor planting. Good luck!