Updated: Nov 2, 2021
H.A.R.D.Y! This is the best way to describe this South African bulb. As of this early September post, they have been in bloom in the Bay Area for a couple weeks and will continue perhaps for another two weeks...without any supplemental water! How great is that, to have some color in what would be a desolate landscape when summer water is unavailable? Don't believe me? See the first photo below, but please put on your designer's analytical hat to understand the view.
The site is a rural cemetery along the California coast. Blooms are still coming, but only a week ago they were much more stunning (I missed that opportunity to photograph them). What is seen are the blooms and the remaining desiccated leaves, which unfortunately give the overall appearance an unkempt, drier than dry landscape. If maintenance was programmed, gardeners would have removed the dead leaves long ago, so the focus would be on the beautiful blooms decorating the cemetery. Drifts of A. belladonna make the landscape stand out, flush in bubblegum pink. Without them, the landscape is barren and dry, and to be candid, soon to be emphasized when the blooms are finished. Keep in mind as you analyze the site that there does not appear to be supplemental water, or if there was available water, the drought might limit how much can be used. Either way, these bulbs are thriving on their own. Shortly after winter rains begin, their leaves sprout from the ground when the roots are active. The cycle repeats when the leaves dry out in the spring, their energy once again absorbed into the bulbs before blooming again in autumn. Spring may also be the time to see daffodils in the same location, because they will also fair well with limited rains. Incidentally, gophers have run amuck on this site, and the bulbs do not appear to be phased by their activity.
Their hardiness is one of the reasons A. belladonna can be seen along roadways or in older farmhouse gardens, both in places with little water to spare if at all. I argue that if color is needed in urban areas with low maintenance and limited to no water, such as street medians, these lilies can add a splash of fall color and winter green. If readers are aware of any cities planting A. belladonna in their landscapes, please let me know.
If pink is not a part of the design plan, then consider white with A. belladonna 'Alba' (also shown below), not commonly found in stores but available from online bulb growers. Consider adding them to landscape designs, understanding that landscape contractors are not often equipped with mail ordering bulbs at the right time of year to install a project. I was fortunate in my case, the white naked ladies (the common name always makes me blush but references their bloom cycle without leaves) were found at an old, abandoned farmhouse, so we grabbed some seeds and propagated them (it took a few years before they finally bloomed). Now the bulbs are thriving and will occasionally be divided to expand the mass.
Come to think of it, A. belladonna could be an option for California's green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). Their growing season coincides with our winter storm events, and they will be dormant when little to no water is entering a green treatment. Their best location would be on a side slope above the most active standing water, just in case water remains for longer periods due to rain events occurring in close succession.
NOTE: Photos of leaves coming winter/spring 2022.
Botanical Name: Amaryllis belladonna
Amaryllis: Greek, amarysso for to sparkle
Belladonna: Beautiful lady
Common Name: Naked lady; Belladonna lily; August lily
Family Name: Amaryllidaceae
Origin: South Africa
Positioning: Foreground, drifts
Garden Themes: Mediterranean/dry, rock, container, courtyard/patio, pool, meadow, cutting
Uses: Border, mass, accent, specimen, floral display
Form: Clump, spreading, erect (when in bloom)
Size: 2' tall when in bloom (leaves are stay low to ground) and spreading
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower
Leaf: Enters dormancy after spring rains stop.
Shape: Ensiform with rounded apex
Color: Dark green
Surface: Glabrous, glossy, leathery
Flower: Summer to Autumn. Apical cluster of showy pink, trumpet flowers with variable fragrance if at all.
Fruit: Autumn to Winter. Fleshy capsules
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 4-24
USDA Zones: 3-10
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Very low
Texture: Sand, silty loam, rocky
Moisture Retention: Well-drained
Tolerances: Drought, deer, rabbit
Problems: Low toxicity
Branch Strength: N/A
Insects: Not recorded at time of posting.
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Extension Gardener. "Amaryllis belladonna." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on September 7, 2021, from https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/amaryllis-belladonna/.
Jepson Herbarium, Taxon Report. "Amaryllis belladonna." University of California, Berkeley. Accessed on September 7, 2021, from https://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=12964.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
PBSWiki. "Amaryllis." Pacific Bulb Society, Milwaukie. Accessed on September 7, 2021, from https://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/amaryllis.
Plant Z Africa. "Amaryllis belladonna." South African National Biodiversity Institute, Brummeria. Accessed on September 6, 2021, from http://pza.sanbi.org/amaryllis-belladonna.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on September 7, 2021.
Bulb detail: "Amaryllis belladonna L. (AM AK321826-4)" by Ewen Cameron, Auckland Museum is license under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Bulbs along brick foundation: "Amaryllis belladonna" by Leonora (Ellie) Enking is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).
All other photos by TELCS.