Sometimes misleadingly called lilies, members of the amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae, belong to their own distinct botanical group. True lilies belong to the lily family, Liliaceae. The florist amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.) is a recognizable plant, especially seen as potted gifts or houseplants around Christmastime. The members of the amaryllis family contain mild poisons in their parts and should not be eaten. They also all bear magnificently ornate flowers, a reason why gardeners love to grow them.
Native to South Africa, Clivia (Clivia spp.) are called bush lilies or fire lilies, as well as the ethnic-insensitive name Kaffir lilies. These bulbs bear evergreen strap-like leaves and bear flower clusters that are orange or golden yellow in winter to summer, depending on species. They grow 12 to 20 inches tall, also species dependent.
Also native to South Africa but best in a gritty soil, belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna) is seasonally dormant, lacking foliage in the few months before the naked flower stems poke up from the soil. It flowers in late summer. Other names for it include naked ladies, magic lily, azucena and resurrection lily.
Also called poison-bulb or misleading as crinum lilies, these plants grow large, broad, sword-like leaves. There are over 100 different species of Crinum, native to the tropics and warm temperature regions. Some examples of garden plants include the Vaal River lily (Crinum bulbispermum), St. Christopher lily (Crinum jagus) and the Queen Emma spider lily (Crinum augustum 'Queen Emma'). Crinum lilies bloom during the warm months and range in height from 3 to 8 feet tall depending on species.
Seventeen species of Amazon lily (Eucharis spp.) hail from the tropical forests in Central America and the Andes Mountains. Glossy dark green leaves are attractive by themselves, but the drooping flowers that resemble white daffodils look exquisite when they appear in spring to early summer. Three species often encountered in tropical shade gardens are Eucharis amazonica, Eucharis ulei and Eucharis grandiflora.
Native to South Africa and Namibia, paintbrush (Haemanthus spp.) grows only two strappy leaves from each bulb. The flowers occur often in summer and fall and are dense with stamens, making them look like plump, upright paintbrushes. Depending on species, the flowers are either creamy white, pink or orange-red. The plants grow no taller than 12 to 14 inches.
The blood lily (Scadoxus spp.) is native to tropical Africa and nearby moist parts of Arabia. These look much like a paintbrush but grow with many leaves emanating from the bulb and the flower occurs before the leaves in spring to early summer. The red to orange flower heads comprise hundreds of stamens with long filaments, looking like a ball of cat whiskers. Two species known to many tropical gardeners are Scadoxus puniceus and Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. katherinae.
The white flowers of spider lilies (Hymenocallis spp.) have six long, linear petals that surround a white cup or "webbing" that connects the bases of the six whisker-like stamens. Many times these plants grow prolifically in wet soil along streams or lakes and bloom in either winter, spring or summer. Three species of note inclue Hymenocallis caribaea, Hymenocallis littoralis and Hymenocallis tubiflora.
The quinessential perennial bulb that creates resplendent spring flower displays, jonquils and daffodils (Narcissus spp.) are also showy members of the amaryllis family. There are about 50 species but thousands of man-made hybrid and mutated varieties exist. Daffodils' blooming season extends from late winter to mid-spring with flower petals ranging in color from white to yellow with central flower cups being white, pink, yellow or orange or shades in-between.
Breaking through the melting snowdrifts in the last days of winter, snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) are a small, close relative to florist amaryllis. Only blooming in white, the plants grow 4 to 10 inches tall, depending on species.