The amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae) family contains over 90 genera and over 1,000 subspecies of flowering plants. Closely related to the lily and iris families, members of the amaryllis clan are mostly native to South America, South Africa and the Mediterranean region. The family contains many popular garden flowers as well as more exotic species. It was first described in the early nineteenth century by French botanist Jean Henri Jaume Saint-Hilaire (1772-1843). Amaryllis are most often characterized by trumpet-shaped flowers and elongated, strap-like foliage.
Some of the best known spring-flowering plants belong to the amaryllis family, including the well-loved daffodil (Narcissus). Long cultivated, the genus Narcissus is divided into a number of sections according to size and flower type. There is a daffodil for almost every situation, including miniature varieties, large trumpet types, fragrant cultivars. Many types multiply readily if left undisturbed in a sunny location. They are also unappealing to deer and rodents.
Summer-flowering amaryllids include Crinum, also known as angel lily, apostle lily, milk-and-wine lily and Confederate lily. It is a staple of southern American gardens, blooming over a long period of time. The flower scapes are 3 to 5 feet tall, with characteristic downward-facing pink and white trumpets. The blossoms are also fragrant, especially in the evening. In warm winter climates, the foliage is evergreen; elsewhere in its range (USDA Zones 7 to 10), the plant dies back to the ground. Clumps of crinum can last for many years.
Native to South African, Amaryllis belladona, the belladonna lily, is a garden flower well-suited to warm weather climates, especially the American South. It looks like a slimmed down version of its cousin, Hippeastrum, which is most often sold under the name "Amaryllis." A late summer bloomer, the plant sprouts trumpet-like flowers before the appearance of the long leaves in the fall, which die down in the spring. The blooms are pink, or almost red, and fragrant. The belladonna lily does best in a sunny, protected site with rich soil.
The large-flowered, showy "amaryllis" that is most often seen in potted form during the winter holidays comes originally from Central and South America. It is available in shades ranging from nearly white, through an array of pinks, reds, oranges and bi-colors. Given proper care after blooming and a period of dormancy, hybrid Hippeastrum bulbs will often bloom again year after year.