April 13th, 2005
Hippeastrum x johnsonii

photo: St Josephs Lily

I popped over to Garden Spot which hadn’t been updated in almost a year to find a new post on St. Joseph’s lily. And there was the answer to the mystery bulb which is blooming in my garden these last two weeks. I figured it was some kind of amaryllis. I’d found two very small bulbs when rescuing oxblood lilies from a construction site on South 1st street several years ago. They began blooming for the first time this year on March 31st.

photo: amaryllis

In “Garden Bulbs for the South”, Scott Ogden writes, “After nearly two hundred years, H. x johnsonii remains the most prolific and hardy garden amaryllis. Its bold, crimson trumpets rise in clusters of four to six atop two-foot stems. In most of the South, these blossoms appear in early April.” (St. Joseph’s day is March 19th.)

St Josephs Lily

Rob Proctor, in “Naturalizing Bulbs” adds, “…(it’s) a southern specialty noted for its dependable nature and outstanding long red trumpets with central white stripes on the petals. It can take some frost and damp winter soil and is the most durable amaryllis throughout the South.”

I can vouch for the frost-hardiness. The bulbs lost their leaves for the first time after last Christmas Eve’s hard freeze. I was worried but then they started growing more vigorously than ever and sent up their first flower scapes.

by M Sinclair Stevens

13 Responses to post “Hippeastrum x johnsonii”

  1. From Adam Fikso:

    Do you happen to know the chromosome number o. H. x johnsonii?

    Not offhand. — mss

  2. From Kathy Long:

    Where can I find these bulbs?

    Old House Gardens is one online source. I’ve never ordered from them, so I can’t say if they are a good source or not. — mss

  3. From Tom Thompson:

    I’ve been able to scrounge the seed from a bed of hardy amaryllis (hippeastrum x johnsonii) after the blooms have died back. So what do I do now in order to get them to grow. I don’t see Hardy Amaryllis very often-it seems to be a plant that is fairly rare around here in Denton, and there doesn’t seem to be very much written about the culture of this gorgeous plant.

    Tom, none of my seeds have matured but I have started seeds from oxblood lilies and rainlilies which are related. This is how I did it. Soak the seeds overnight and then lay them flat on a seed medium. Cover them very lightly with fine sand because they need sunlight to sprout. They should sprout within three or four days depending on the temperatures. Best of luck. Write back and tell us how it worked. — mss

  4. From Marlin:

    I have Hippeastrum x johnsonii in one gallon pots in a greenhouse. How do I geet them to re-bloom?

    I don’t know how to force them in a greenhouse. The only information I can find is for other amaryllis…which mentions keeping them in the dark after their leaves wither and that their flower stalks will emerge before the leaves. Mine never lose their leaves. They never bloom, either. Maybe I try putting one of them in the dark just to compare.

    As for the Hippeastrum x johnsonni, their leaves never die back in my garden either…athough they definitely got a new set in October after we got some rain and cooler weather. Whether it is a change in temperature or a reaction to the lengthening days, I don’t know, but they rebloom reliably in Central Texas in mid-March. — mss

  5. From Al O'Brien, SE Louisiana:

    St Joseph’s Lilies grow extremely well here just north of Baton Rouge. I would like to know the appearance of mature St. Jo seeds. We have a bed full of St Jo lilies and I would like to start some from seeds. Any information you can provide about the appearance of mature seed would be very helpful.

    I have never let mine go to seed so I don’t have any information to share. Sorry. — mss

  6. From Mark Wommack, North Texas:

    When is the best time to dig and divide the bulbs?

    Oh, the best time of year. Sorry, I read the question wrong the first time. Anytime after the foliage has died down (in the heat of summer). If the foliage never dies down (mine doesn’t) then early fall. — mss

  7. From Ann B Gulf Coast:

    H. Johnsonii is diploid. The blooms can be selfed (meaning fertilized by its own pollen), but since it is a hybrid, the blooms of the seedlings will be somewhat different.

    The seeds look like normal hippeastrum seeds and tend to stay viable somewhat longer than the hybrid Tetraploids. I suspect this is due to the fact that the embryo is somewhat larger than Tet embryos.

    My Johnsonii are planted in the garden, and they bloom reliably every year. I haven’t had as much luck with potted Johnsonii,

  8. From Patricia M Dallas, TX:

    is hippeastrum johnsonii the same bulb as amaryllis minerva? the look the same in photos but don’t know if they have the same qualities…saw some minervas on ebay.

  9. From a j amato - louisiana:

    looking for seeds of this plant.


  10. From L Chauvin, Covington, LA:

    Can you point me to a source, local or mailorder, for St Joseph,s Lily bulbs (Hippeastrum x johnsonii)?

    Try The Southern Bulb Company. They carry a wide variety of bulbs especially for the South. If they don’t have it in stock now, they may be able to help you find it. — mss

  11. From Carolyn H. Morris, Georgetown, SC:

    I have just been given two of these. What type of location do they prefer for planting—full sun, partial sun, well drained, moist?

    I garden on heavy black clay–thick and mucky in a rare wet years and hard as concrete in our more frequent dry ones. They don’t seem to mind it. Over a really hot summer, the leaves sometimes die down but they come back up when (if) we get our fall rains. I never do anything to them really. I think they’re pretty adaptable. I live in Zone 8, so I don’t have any issues with the ground freezing. — mss

  12. From Sandra Holloway:

    I have had H. Johnsonii outside my home in zone 8a for 11 years +. They have multiplied like crazy over the years and are absolutely beautiful!
    I think it’s gr8 that you were able to rescue 2 bulbs.
    Sandra 🙂

  13. From Vickie Montagne, Summertown, Tn.:

    Just learned about Joseph’s lily, from an article in “Tennessee Magazine. beautiful! Would love to get some for my garden and then share with friends. Any one in the area, want help in dividing their clump?