On Gardening: Wedding Dance amaryllis, not just any old head of a horse

May 8, 2017

Wedding Dance amaryllis produces tall stalks of glistening white flowers that show out against a backdrop of dark green.

If I told you that the name of the most beautiful bulb you could grow derives from Greek words meaning Ďhead of a horse,í try as you might you probably could not conjure up the vision of an amaryllis. The amaryllis so exquisite in spring gardens in the South is known botanically as Hippeastrum, meaning the head of a horse, or horseman.

I assure you, Trigger itís not. Just within sight of our fairy-like gazebo in the Cottage Garden, a show happens each spring that draws the attention of cameras and visitors like few other plants, the Wedding Dance amaryllis. Itís a perfect name for an amaryllis in the site of almost weekly weddings.

This hybrid amaryllis produces stalks that exhibit several enormous, pristine white flowers measuring up to 7-inches in width. Ours has been producing for weeks, and while most bulb catalogs and vendors suggest stalks 16 to 20-inches high, ours are sturdy and easily hitting 32.

Amaryllis, for the most part, are considered zone 8-10 bulbs but Wedding Dance, according to Tony Avent with Plant Delights Nursery, can be grown in zone 7b possibly colder. Tony commented that in 1996 they endured -1 degree F.

Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens in Savannah, we havenít had temperatures nearly so challenging, 18-degrees a couple of years ago and 25 this March, after the garden was 7-weeks ahead of schedule. The St. Josephís Lily, Hippeastrum x johnsonii, produces deeply saturated red flowers with a pronounced white star and packs, even more, landscape cold tolerance.

Gardeners all over the country can enjoy the amaryllis whether in the landscape or one of the most loved Christmas plants forced indoors. Outdoors they prefer fertile, well-drained soil. Ours get morning sun and late afternoon shade. In the landscape, we treat them much like narcissus. We deadhead flowers and leave foliage until it goes dormant.

Depending on where you live you may buy yours for planting in a pot at Thanksgiving and celebrating the bloom at Christmas. Your soil mix should be light and airy. Whether going in the landscape, or in a pot, plant so that the neck and top of the bulb are in view. Place the pot in a morning sun window and maintain moisture.

After your amaryllis blooms, keep your plant growing until warm, frost-free temperatures arrive and then plant outdoors if you are in the proper hardiness zone. Otherwise, place your pot on the porch patio or deck and keep the foliage actively growing until it goes dormant in mid to late-summer. Bring your pot indoors before any chance of frost removing leaves once they become dry and shriveled. They will need a two month rest period before beginning the cycle again.

Those grown in the landscape in warmer regions can be left in the bed for years without separating, digging or replanting. Once bulbs finally do get crowded, they can be lifted and separated adding plants to other areas of the landscape. Ours are growing surrounded by Blue Sea setcresea or Tradescantia, a beautiful, blue-green form of Purple Heart.

Ours are against a backdrop of the old-fashioned nandina that looks picturesque when you have the large white flowers combined with red berries. The beauty would be even more dazzling if grown in front of hollies sporting red berries. Iíve only been touting Wedding Dance, but there are hundreds of hybrids all with their own, unique attributes. You most likely will find them readily for sale in the fall. Make this the year you give them a try.



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services