December 24, 2016

1 - Some hardy amaryllis (Hippeastrum) may actually survive the winter outside in New Mexico, especially in warm microclimates.

Yard and Garden December 24, 2016

Q.

I received an amaryllis plant in December 2005 as a memorial gift from a friend after the death of my brother on December 4th. I named this plant "Phyllis". After I had kept the amaryllis plant in a container until February I put it in the ground outside. It bloomed again in May. Not just any time in May but fully and lusciously on the 18th...my brother's birthday.

I take a photo of Phyllis every year and mark our calendar, "Phyllis blooms" (on the 18th). She now has six new stalks. She has made it through many hard winters and hot summers here in Las Cruces. If the original Phyllis should die I hope the new stalks carry on at least until I have to leave this house.

- Carmella M.

A.

Thank you for your inspiring story and evidence that plants can do amazing things. As I did research for the article on Hippeastrum sp. (amaryllis) for last week's garden column, I did notice that there were some cultivars and hybrids listed as "hardy". I have a friend here in Albuquerque with beautiful red Hippeastrum plants growing in his front yard. They have also survived some harsh winters, including the winter of 2011 when temperatures fell well below 0 degrees F. I attributed his success to the fact that his plants are on the south side of his house and surrounded by paving that created a warm microclimate. In the microclimate where he grows his plants, the soil does not freeze. Your success further supports the idea that we can grow some plants that are not usually expected to survive here.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map lists Albuquerque in hardiness zone 7 and Las Cruces in hardiness zone 8. Some of the hardy amaryllis (Hippeastrum) varieties are listed in catalogs as being hardy in the ground from hardiness zones 7 through 9. Other varieties are not expected to survive in these hardiness zones. Warm microclimates would allow growing hardy varieties in surprising locations and may allow even less hardy varieties to survive. Since I write this garden column for gardeners in all of New Mexico, I try to be somewhat cautious since some varieties of Hippeastrum will not be hardy even in Albuquerque and are definitely not hardy in colder regions of the state.

The story of your success gives me the opportunity to congratulate you and other gardeners who are willing to be daring and try growing plants that are not commonly recommended, or who grow plants in places where they are not usually recommended. Your success adds to our knowledge base and encourages me and other gardeners, thank you.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

Links:

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