I am feeling slightly flat today having missed posting yesterday. ‘One a month’ was the original mantra, I missed Jan 2013 by a whisker of activity. Ho Hum, not going to give myself a hard time about it but ho hum!
So Hippeastrum…You’re probably wondering why on earth I would be writing about this rather kitsch plant that seems to pop up over the winter months (Oct to Jan blooming time) looking all blousey in your mother-in-laws kitchen/conservatory/dining room.
Well let me say that I inherited one from a family member. It was given to them as a gift about 4 Christmas’ ago and had been lurking in it’s increasingly tatty box in the garage unplanted and un-loved. I noticed it trying to poke it’s foliage into the light during the annual debris clear out in the garage 3 years ago. Being a bit of a collector, I can never resist an ambitious plant, and being thrifty (read mean) I can’t bear to throw potential away without trying. So I took it home and potted it up in the pot provided. It sat on the cold window sill and went onto produce not one but two spectacular stems with enormous stripey pink and cream flowers. Not so fleeting – a good 3 or 4 weeks in flower and in return I buried the whole pot in the partially shaded border for the spring and summer months, leaving leafage and feeding along with other shrubs and bulb-ery in that part of the garden. Low and behold more leaves appeared and the bulb grew, ish. At the end of Autumn I duly took it inside not wanting it to turn to mush in the sub-zeros we had last year and molly coddled it hoping for a spectacular show as the year before.
Not a bit of it, oh it thrived, leafed up and sucked up water, leafed up some more but no flower spike I will admit to feeding it at the sight of each new leaf (they look like flower spikes in the first few days) but not a single flower spike emerged. Having a remarkably short attention span for plants that don’t ‘do’ what they’re supposed to it was consigned to an east facing windowsill for the rest of the winter and then plonked in the ‘do something with’ shady border, under a rampant clematis for the rest of last year.
During this years autumn clear up I discovered it was quite happily lurking with 3 or 4 leaves tattered and bent from slug attention and neglect. This time I’d read up on the old hippeastrum and swiftly cut back the leaves potted it on to a 2ltr pot with fresh compost mix and brought it inside, “one last chance” I told it, “if you don’t flower this year you’re compost!”
Now I’m not a big conversationalist when it comes to dialogue with my plants but on occasion I have been known to threaten such things and even tell them how beautiful they are, with not much small talk in between. I’ll be honest I have never noticed one jot of difference in a plants behavior following such chats but, well some of you might. Christmas came and went, New Year came and went, nothing. Lush juicy leafage but no sign of a flower stalk. Then after a particularly cold weekend away I returned home to the makings of a flower stalk. The stem seems to lurch in growth, not so much steady increments but 6 inches one week and nothing the next. I am a sporadic water-er and feeder so no doubt this will have everything to do with it but maybe not, maybe this Hippeastrum is just contrary and likes doing it it’s own way. About ten days later the first flower unfurled. HUGE. Honestly it is the size of my hand span (size 7 glove) a softer reddy pinky creamy than I recall and flowery. Then flower number two emerged fattening up and up until one dark night the whole thing keeled over into the money plant, tipping soil all over the place. Staking was required. I pinched the green stick from the Orchid I am also attempting to coax into re-flowering and tied three lots of string around at even intervals up the chunky stem, it seems to be holding nicely. Bloom two was no less magnificent, no less blousey, ok possibly a tad more gaudy. Finally bloom three popped out pushing towards the opposite direction and balancing the whole perfectly. Flower one is still perfect, flower three is emerging (takes about a day) and I am wondering how long it will all last.
Of course because it’s so in your face flouncy I am thinking of purchasing another to complement it, and take up more window space and frustrate me in the coming years. Though this time having done my homework and discovered they need 6-8 weeks of cold (10 degrees C) and a spot of drying out, simulating a dormant period in the growing phase. Once dormancy is done and leaves begin to poke up, it’s into faking spring/summer mode for the plant, upping the temp to a healthy 15-18 (i.e move it to a lived in room) and begin the feeding and careful watering. Careful watering is so as not to rot the bulb and of course as a horticulturalist I should say I do this, I don’t I am slack, the hippeastrum is forgiving, one thing I do make sure of is that it doesn’t sit in or on water, I park it in half a sink of water for 20 mins then drain it for an hour on the drainer, sit it back on it’s dish until I remember again it needs watering.
At the time of posting the third flower is still out some 3 weeks later. Well worth the effort.