Plant Profile: Hippeastrum papilio

This marvelous creature is in full flower on our balcony at the moment with a second stem on the way in the next few weeks. I first came across this beauty during my time as head gardener at Bronte House. Starting the role in December of that year I had noticed Hippi bulbs through the Agapanthus border but it wasn’t until late winter the following year when they began erupting with flower that I first laid eyes on her.

I’m generally not a fan of big showy flowers like Hippeastrums but this species is different, naturally occurring and therefore unadulterated by pollen happy horticulturists breeding for more colour and bigger blooms.

Hippeastrum_papilio_(3)For me it is the colour combination of deep maroon streaked through cream but suffused with apple green that I find most appealing. Green in the flower makes it look as though it’s still evolving, as if a green flower just discovered the power of colour to attract insect pollinators and is now busy flooding those veins with this new wonder substance. (Note – there is scientific fact to support my hyperbole.)

Hippeastrum papilio is from southern Brazil and it’s range is decreasing but the plant is becoming popular with gardeners. You will find a grower at your next rare plant fair.