Sold as Cybister Amaryllis, this group of plants (Hippeastrum cybister) is actually a separate South African species. Synonyms for the Cybister include Sprekelia cybister, Amaryllis cybister, Hippeastrum anomalum, Hippeastrum deflexum, Lepidopharynx deflexa, Sprekelia cybister var brevis, Sprekelia cybister var subsexuncialis. Many of the early hybrids were made by Fred Meyer, the late San Diego plant breeder.

Hippeastrum cybister var 'Evergreen' is a newer pale yellow-green variety with a deeper incandescent apple-green starburst. The Cybisters have thinner leaves and petals than other amaryllis varieties. They lose their leaves in the same manner as traditional amaryllises. If you plan to save the bulb, retain the leaves for as long as possible in order to generate next season’s flowers. Use a well-drained planting medium with a coarse texture and a pH of 6.0-6.5. The addition of a high organic material like peat moss will help hold water and nutrients longer. Sand can be added to the container for weight. As with other amaryllis, avoid deep-panting and keep the tip 1-2 inches above the surface of the soil. For pots, use a single large bulb per 6-inch pot. Do not fertilize until roots begin growing. The flower spike will form from previous growth. Avoid excess nitrogen which promotes vegetative growth and reduces flowering. Leaves may persist throughout the year if the plant is established. Keep the soil slightly moist and don't over-water which is the primary cause of bulb rot. This is especially important immediately after planting and before the root system is actively growing. Thoroughly wet the planting medium and then water only if dry. Avoid wetting the pointed tip of the bulb. Amaryllis prefer warm temperatures of 70-75° F. Ensure good air circulation around the bulb. Once flowering begins, cooler temperatures (60-65° F) can extend bloom duration. To save the bulb, store in moist peat moss at 55-73°F or dry it and store at 68-77° F. Cybisters are sun-lovers. Bright light will result in shorter stems and best flower development.

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Cybisters can be propagated by seed, offsets and tissue culture but will not come true from seed. Seeds are easy to germinate making the plant easy to hybridize. Cybisters may or may not be fertile. Depending on temperatures, bulbs flower 4-8 weeks after growth is initiated. If can take two years for repeat blooms from a bulb and three or more years from seed.

Flower size is directly related to bulb size. Studies show that long-day photoperiods facilitate flowering, but most amaryllis will bloom when forced under short days as well. Bulbs can be purchased prior to the winter holidays through early summer. The variety "Ruby Star" has intense red and green coloring; "Chico" (shown top of page) has exotic-looking curved bracts.

Hippeastrum papilio (papilio is French for butterfly), the Butterfly Amaryllis produces graceful blooms resembling butterflies. This is the most famous of the exotic amaryllises and increases in size each year as well as producing offsets. This variety sports white petals with dark maroon brushing and stripes and is tinged with lime green. The numerous blooms measure 6" across. Although easy to grow, it may not bloom for up to six months after the foliage appears and requires patience to achieve good results. After flowering, bulbs will be spent which means the bulb will not have the reserves to grow and flower next season. In order to produce flowers next year, bulbs must rebuild reserves. After the last bloom fades, cut the flower stalk down to 3-5" above the bulb. Do not cut off the leaves which produce the food that will be stored in the bulb for the following year.

Set the plant in a sunny window preferably south-facing. Water when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch. Begin fertilizing once a month with a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer (0-10-10 or 5-10-10 blossom booster). After danger of frost has passed, set the pot outdoors in full sun or plant the bulb in a sunny spot. In fall, bring the bulb indoors, cut off the foliage just above the bulb, and store it dry in a cool (55°F) dark place such as a basement for 8-10 weeks. In spring, pot and water the bulb but keep the potting soil nearly dry until new growth emerges.

These bulbs will grow and bloom abundantly in water only. Place 2-4" of pebbles in a container. Trim off any brown, dried roots but leave any white, fleshy roots. Set the bulb, roots down, on top of the pebbles and add the remaining stones around the bulb leaving the top third exposed. Adding aquarium charcoal to the stones helps prevent odors. Add water to about 1" below the base of the bulb. If the base sits in water, the bulb will rot. Set the container in a sunny spot in a room that stays above 60°F. The warmer the temperature (70-80°F day and night is ideal), the faster the bulb will sprout and grow. Check the water level daily and add water as needed to keep the level just below the base of the bulb. In 2-8 weeks, a shoot will emerge from the top of the bulb. Prior to that, you may see thick white roots in the stones. Rotate the container frequently to prevent stalks from leaning toward the light. Amaryllis grown in water may not perform well in subsequent years.

I grow H.c. "Evergreen" and H.c. "Papilio Butterfly". Both produce exceptional blooms. Whichever Cybister you choose, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular floral display.

(https://gpnmag.com/article/cybister-amaryllis/; https://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/exotic-amaryllis-forms; print-By Botanical Register [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons photos as Sprekelia cybister; all other photos by Svetlana [email protected])