hippeastrum vs hymenocallis

sun_worshiper(FL 9b)July 28, 2013

I received a pot of bulbs in trade that were supposed to be a white flowered crinum. But looking closely, I don't think it is a crinum. The foliage doesn't have the characteristic rosette formation of the leaves, but instead has leaves that look a lot more like hippeastrums. I've yet to see them bloom. The person I got them from said they can take wet conditions and a lot of sun. That's where they are now - soggy and hot up against the south side of my house. They seem happy there, still in a pot. It is an extremely crowded clump, and I'm wondering if I should pull it apart? If they are hippeastrums - then yes. But the liking for a soggy hot spot makes me think that isn't what they are. So I'm wondering if they are maybe some form of hymenocallis. The white bloom of some of those can be confused with some types of crinum blooms, so that seems like a possibility.

Anybody know how to tell a hymenocallis bulb from a hippeastrum? Does it have any distinctive shape characteristics? And do they like to be divided, or left undisturbed like crinums?

Was going to take a picture, but a thundershower just started dumping rain, so will have to post a pic later...

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The foliage of hymenocallis is indeed very similar to hippeastrum. I am not sure how to distinguish them, but hymenocallis bulbs form a longer neck formed of leaf bases, in contrast to the short necks of hippies.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 6:50PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Thanks Bill. In your experience do all hymenocallis go dormant for part of the year? Or are some evergreen? I probably won't get a chance to post a pic until next weekend, but I'm thinking I'm going to separate out one bulb from the clump and post a picture of it for id thoughts.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 7:54PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Finally got a chance to snap some pics. Ok, what do you all think? Is this a hippeastrum?

The plant

And I separated out one of the bulbs to inspect it:

Certainly has the bulb shape and roots like a hippeastrum.

And for comparison, I know for sure that this one is a hymenocallis. Do all hymenocallis have the thickened basal plate like this? Is that a way to tell them apart from hippeastrums?

And of course any other guesses on the type of bulb are welcome! I was told it was a crinum when I got it, but I don't think so based on foliage.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 5:22PM
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Hey Angela!
Are these the bulbs I gave ya? Boy, they've really gotten big, huh?

I found some more in my garden - tiny babies that I missed when I dug 'em up for ya - and I thought I'd do some more research...so I came here, too.

I think now that these are called hymenocallis littoralis. I found this pic on Google and this is what the ones look like that I planted in the Everglades that got the constant water supply from a drippy faucet. The ones planted in the dryer areas stayed smaller and didn't bloom.

The ones I gave you came from a yard in Lake Placid - and the same thing happened: the ones in the wetter soil got huge and the drier ones looked stunted. Maybe that's typical of amaryllis bulbs, too, but they are still new to me.

Anyways, I'm sorry for the confusion about thinking these "mystery" bulbs were crinums - that's what a nursery guy told me they were and I've always thought that (since probably 1975)

Maybe someone here with more experience can straighten me out.
Just like you, I'd love to know.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 8:17PM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

These grow wild in the ditches around here. Amazing when they are all in bloom in mass! Makes sense that they thrive in the wet.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 9:25PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Hi Susie - thanks for chiming in. Yes! These are the bulbs you gave me. Thanks so much for posting a picture of what the blooms looked like. That is definitely a hymenocallis. I don't know enough about them to tell the different types apart. But I'm very happy to have them. I have had terrible luck with getting hymenocallis to grow, so I'm pleased to have some that are so healthy. The bulb I showed above that is a hymenocallis is liriosme. It has been in the ground for 2 years, and in that time has only managed to grow the two roots you see and two leaves that are about 3 inches long. I have several other bulbs, and they have all been doing the same thing - nothing. So I'm very hopeful that I will have better luck with yours! The bulb structure is different, so certainly they are a different type. Littoralis is a good guess. What month did yours bloom? That way I can be on the look out for it.

Now that we know they are some sort of hymenocallis, what do you think? Should I plant the clump undisturbed, or should I separate the bulbs out and space them out when I plant them? Do hymenocallis hate to be disturbed the way crinums do? Or are they more like hippeastrums, and do well when divided?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 9:57AM
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Sorry, Angela, I don't know when these will bloom.

I just did some more research and found this very informative PDF.

I'm thinking this could be another one of your adventuresome experiments! Even the botanists say they are all very similiar, and there's about 40 of them.

It's been my experience that digging them and moving them doesn't bother them. I've been moving my plants around the state quite alot. But the ones that stay put get bigger, naturally.

I spaced mine out, simply because I didn't know any better, and they multiplied and became bigger clumps. So I divided and spaced out again. It seems like the ones I had in Sanford bloomed in the summer and they were never watered, just rained on. It'd be good to know other gardeners' methods of growing these but you could probably plant them all together in the clump.

Also, check out Carol's problem of having them pop up other places in her yard up in Jax:


    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 8:23PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Thanks Susie! I went back and read the chapter in Garden Bulbs for the South on hymenocallis, and it seems pretty hopelessly confused. I think littoralis is an excellent guess, and it seems that any better guess that than is easiest to make based on bloom time, so I'll look forward to seeing them bloom. Carol's post is very interesting. I think that my banana/canna bed is a good place for me to put these for observation for a year or two. It is very wet, which they should like, and most of that bed gets dug up and disturbed pretty frequently since the cannas need shovel pruning multiple times a year. So if these spread underground somehow, it will be easiest to control them in that bed. I think I'll separate about half the bulbs off and space them out a bit and plant the rest as a clump, and see which do better. Thanks for your help with identification and culture!


    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 9:46AM
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You're welcome!

I'll go out and take a pic of my li'l ones and watch their progress in various conditions, too.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 6:09PM
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I've had this in my garden here in Zone 7/8 for about eight years and have whacked several clumps off every year to give to friends, and their's have always thrived. I'm not sure what variety it is but it does look like Susie's picture. The roots go more or less straight down, not spreading.

It's never gotten any water except for rain, gets about six or eight hours of sun a day during the heat of the summer, and still keeps chugging along. It's bloomed every year about the end of July or early August. Because I've dug up offshoots, it's size has been confined to about a yard in diameter.

When frost time comes, the leaves, of course, get mushy because of all the moisture they hold, and I just cut them back to about an inch from the soil.

As I'm a gardener who doesn't invest much time and effort, this is one of the most beautiful plants that keeps on givin' in spite of my neglect.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 2:00PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

That is great info - thanks maxmom. Glad to hear yours do well with minimal care, low care plants are so great! Thanks so much for reporting on bloom time, and how you care for them after a frost. I have since planted these into the ground and am looking forward to seeing if they bloom next year.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 2:49PM
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