Amaryllid: The Flower Bulb Praised By Virgil

Amarillide is a bulbous plant from the coast of South Africa. It belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae, genus Amaryllis. There are several species of it, of which the best known is the Amaryllis belladonna, commonly called only amarillide.

But beware, because amarillide is often confused with another bulbous plant belonging to the Amaryllidaceae family, which is very similar: the Hippeastrum.

This confusion has ancient origins and was born 200 years ago, when the impetus of colonization brought enormous interest in new flowers from exotic places, such as Africa, South America and Asia. Imports and new discoveries developed so quickly that it confused botanists, who gave the genus name Amaryllis to both the Hippeastrum from South America and the Amaryllis Belladonna from South Africa. The name remained to the Amaryllis Belladonna, and later the other flower took the botanical name Hippeastrum. Only the family, that of the Amarillidaceae, remained the same for both flowers.

But How Can They Be Distinguished?

The Hippeastrum blossoms in winter, it is, in fact, customary to find it as embellishment in the Christmas period. It has numerous inflorescences and its flowers develop simultaneously with the leaves.

Amarillide, on the other hand, blooms without leaves in spring and its flowers are smaller, but more numerous.

Meaning of the Name

The name amarillide comes from the Greek amarysso, which means to shine.

The Latin poet Virgil, in his Bucolicas, decants, through the verses of the shepherd Titiro, the beauty of the girl named Amarillide.

Amarillide is also known by the name of “mother-in-law and daughter-in-law”, because the flowers bloom from behind.

Another name is “naked female”, precisely because of its characteristic of blooming without leaves.

In the language of flowers, amarillide symbolizes elegance and shining beauty combined with shyness.

Amarillide in Mythology

The Greek myth tells the story of the beautiful girl Amaryllis, who one day, while picking flowers on a mountain, meets the shepherd Alteo and falls madly in love with her.

But Alteo had decided that he would only love the girl who could bring him a flower he had never seen before.

Desperate and madly in love, Amaryllis went to Delphi to consult the oracle and seek advice. There she was given a sacred arrow from the temple and was told to pierce her heart with it in front of the house of Alteus to confess her love.

Amaryllis did so, but Alteus’ cold heart had no reaction.

The maiden did not give up and continued her act, until, on the thirtieth night, from the spot where her blood had repeatedly dripped, a flower with a large red corolla blossomed.

When the new flower appeared, Alteo finally noticed the girl and, kneeling before her, offered her his love.


Amarillide is a plant with a large roundish brown bulb.

Long, fleshy, green, lanceolate leaves branch out from it and only appear after flowering. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, very perfumed, grouped in groups of 6-10 and of various colours, from white to pale pink to fuchsia.

This plant can develop up to a height of 70-90 cm.


Amarillide flowers are widely used by florists as cut flowers, but you can try growing a plant at home, because it is not very demanding.

You can decide to start growing amarillide from seeds, but it will take four and five years for them to flower.

That’s why you usually buy the bulbs.

Check that the bulb is intact, without scratches or rot and that the roots are intact and consistent.

Plant the amarillide bulb in the soil between the months of September and October, so as to have the first flowering in spring.

Amarillide is a plant of tropical origin and as such needs to be in a place that is not too cold. For this reason, in general, it is preferable to be cultivated in pots, indoors. However, in the warmer areas of our peninsula, it can also be kept on the terrace or in the garden in a sheltered place or planted outside in a flowerbed in the open ground.

Amarillide Cultivation In The Middle Of The Earth

  1. If you have decided to grow your plant in the ground, place it in an area of full sun or half shade. Ideally, it would be sheltered by a south-facing wall.
  2. Prepare a well worked substrate, because the amarillide does not like too compact soils. Insert a deep layer of gravel to which you add river sand to make it well drained.
  3. Insert the bulbs at a depth of about 15 cm, leaving the apex slightly out. You can insert 6 to 9 bulbs in each square metre.
  4. Cover the ground with a mulch of dry leaves or straw.
  5. Water immediately after planting, but then do not exaggerate, because the amarillide does not tolerate water stagnation and excessive watering.
  6. At the end of flowering, provide a liquid fertilizer with a high phosphorus and potassium content every 15 days together with the irrigation water.

Cultivation Of Amarillide In Pots

The cultivation of amarillide in pots is very simple.

  • Get a container at least 30 cm deep and with a diameter at least 4 cm wider than the bulb. An excessively large pot is not recommended, because it seems that the amarillide flowers more easily if it develops in small pots.
  • Create a draining layer on the bottom with gravel or expanded clay and fill it with a mixture of soil and sand in equal measure.
  • Place it in a bright and sunny place.
  • Give water regularly from March to October, but without overdoing it. When the leaves are dry, the bulb enters a period of vegetative rest, during which it is sufficient to water the soil every 25-30 days, when you see it dry in depth.
  • During the flowering period, add to the watering water a fertilizer based on phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, plus boron, copper, manganese and zinc, essential nutrients to stimulate the flowering of bulbous and other flowering plants.
  • Repot your amarillide every 2-3 years.

If Amarillide Does Not Flower

It can happen that home-grown amarillide blossoms in the first season and then you can hardly make any more flowers.

Then wait for the foliage to dry out completely and thin out the watering.

Then cut the dried leaves and place the pot in a cool place, a cellar or an unheated area of the house, to simulate winter.

In the spring, place the vase in a bright and warm area to encourage the development of leaves and flowers.

It can also be a lack of nourishment. Remember to always give fertilizer for flowering plants throughout the growing season, to allow the bulb to store the nutrients needed to produce a good flowering the following year.

In any case, amarillide flowers only for the first 5-6 years, after which the bulbs need to be renewed.

Also, if you have started growing from seeds, it is normal that the flowering will occur after 3 or even 5 years.

Last Feature

The plant of amarillide is poisonous, both for men and animals, because it contains the bellamarine, an alkaloid substance which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors and in some cases convulsions.

For this reason, some indigenous African tribes used its juice to poison the arrowheads.

As a precaution, be very careful not to ingest any part of it and always use gloves to avoid skin irritation.

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