Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Friday, April 8, 2011

St. Joseph's lily

It is amaryllis time in Houston area gardens. All those bulbs that we bought for Christmas color - the 'Red Lions', the 'Apple Blossoms', the 'Papillons' - and then planted in our gardens are blooming or getting ready to bloom.

'Apple Blossom' - a bouquet on one stem.

We are lucky to live in a climate where this is possible. A bit farther north, these exotic members of the genus Hippeastrum would not make it through the winter. Here, even with the colder winters we've experienced for the last two years, all of my so-called amaryllis (They aren't really. As noted, they are Hippeastrums.) bulbs have all survived, thrived, and multiplied.

There is one amaryllis that is definitely not a hot-house plant requiring any special care, even in colder climates than ours. It is known by two common names - St. Joseph's lily or hardy amaryllis. It comes by that "hardy" tag honestly.

St. Joseph's lilies are beginning to bloom in my yard and in gardens all across the area this week.

There is an interesting story behind this plant. It is reported to be the first hybrid amaryllis ever produced. It was hybridized in England in 1799 by a watchmaker named Johnson. It was produced by a cross between Hippeastrum reginae and Hippeastrum vittatum and was given the scientific name Hippeastrum x johnsonii in honor of its creator. Following that, it had a long run as a popular home garden flower, but it began to fall out of favor as bigger and showier amaryllis plants were produced. Today, it is difficult to find the bulbs except through dealers in heirlooms like Southern Bulb Company. That, in fact, is where I got my few bulbs a couple of years back.

The bulbs are often handed down from one generation to the next as heirlooms, a popular practice especially among Southern gardeners. If you are lucky, maybe someone will hand some down to you. If not, then they are definitely worth the effort to search them out in the nursery trade.

This is a very tough bulb that has stood the test of time in our climate and soil and is well-acclimated and adapted. It may not be a native plant but it has been here so long that it might as well be. It has everything, really - beauty, fragrance, and durability. Give it a try and I'm betting it will grow on you. I know it will grow FOR you.


  1. Thanks (I think) for the link to the Southern Bulb company! I feel trouble coming!!!!!

  2. It's hard to restrain oneself in the presence of such beautiful things for the garden. I hope I haven't set you on the road to ruin, Snap!