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Grow Hippeastrum papilio (butterfly amaryllis)

Grow Hippeastrum papilio (butterfly amaryllis)

Hippeastrum are popular ornamental plants that can be grown indoors and out, making them a top choice for both apartment living and homes with gardens. Known widely as ‘amaryllis’ which in Greek means to sparkle, they live up to the name, and make spaces brighter wherever they grow. One exceptionally beautiful Hippeastrum is that of H. papilio, fittingly known as the butterfly amaryllis. She’s a true sparkler, flowering from late winter into early spring! 


Where is the best place to plant H. papilio

Butterfly amaryllis are as easy to grow as they are to love. You can grow them in the garden, as well as in pots in a good quality potting medium. Just keep the pots at a size that there will be a snug fit around their roots. Being epiphytic, you could also consider growing them in trees, which is where you’ll find them in their natural habitat. Taken care of, they’ll keep coming back year after year and thrive best in semi-shade. 


How to plant butterfly amaryllis

As with all Hippeastrum, they like to be planted with their ‘head and shoulders’ (or the top third of the bulb) above soil level in well-draining soil. If you’re looking to plant them in the perfect spot, opt for morning sun and afternoon shade and give them room to multiply. If you’re growing them indoors, ensure that they get bright light, and not direct sunlight. Just remember to rotate them a couple of times a week so that the emerging stems don’t lean like the Tower of Pisa. If you do opt for the pot, make sure your bulbs have enough space to multiply so they can stay put for many years. The best time to plant is in February. 

How do I care for butterfly amaryllis?

Here in South Africa, these beauties will bloom in spring, although some have been known to flower twice a year. The butterfly amaryllis will often produce several shorter stems. As the flowers don’t bloom simultaneously, the overall flowering period can last quite a long time and we’re not complaining. They have large and strong foliage, which adds to its lasting beauty. 

Water regularly when the surface of the soil is dry, but take care not to overwater. A good rule of thumb is three times every two weeks all year round. Give them a dose of Hadeco Bulb Food or similar when flower stems appear, and another fix after flowering is finished. This is to ensure that they have enough energy and nutrients to produce next year’s crop of blooms and to bulk up for when they get their ‘beauty sleep’. It’s more like a catnap as they rest from mid-December to mid-January only. If you do need to lift them, you can do so in January. 

Papilio is not generally prone to diseases, but do keep your eyes open for their archenemies, slugs and snails, and particularly for the lily borer which will decimate your bulb in no time at all. You can use an organic caterpillar insecticide, but in such cases it is best to get up close and personal a couple of times a week and remove the caterpillars by force. In this case, violence is acceptable.  

More about butterfly amaryllis  

Hippeastrum papilio originates from the tropical forests of Brazil and has striking blooms of white to creamy-green, striated with maroon or if you fancy yourself a colour connoisseur ‘carmine’, with touches of bronze on dark-green foliage. Their appearance is a true work of art and is reminiscent of the swallowtail butterflies for which they were named, hence their common name butterfly amaryllis. H. papilio was considered extinct in its natural habitat until being rediscovered in the 1990s. 

Happy gardening and may you grow very happy Hipps!

Disclaimer: Ingestion of H. papilio may cause an upset stomach. Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Keep away from children and pets.

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