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What is a Belladonna Lily?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 16, 2024
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A belladonna lily, perhaps more commonly known as amaryllis, is a flowering plant that is native to South Africa. The plant is also called Jersey Lily, after the actress Lily Langtry, and Resurrection Lily or Naked Lady, after its tendency to flower after its leaves have withered away. The attractive, funnel-shaped flowers of this plant have made it one of the more popular garden plants around the world; the flowers are principally white with crimson veins, but pink and purple varieties are also seen. The plant is often confused with the Hippeastream lily, which has similar flowers.

The belladonna lily can be propagated by seed or by bulb. Propagation by bulb is usually much faster. Seedlings, on the other hand, can take about two weeks to appear and may take several years still to develop sufficiently enough to be able to produce flowers. The plant is generally easy to maintain, whether grown in a pot or in the ground, as long as it is planted in a well-drained soil and receives full or partial sunlight; it is not, however, a shade-loving plant and will not thrive in complete shade. These plants do not usually do well in tropical or very cold environments.

The flowers of the belladonna lily are produced at the top of the leafless stems, which can grow up to 24 inches (60.96 cm) in length. Each flower is about 4 inches (10.16 cm) around, with three inner petals and three outer sepals. The flowers appear in clusters that may include two flowers or up to 12 flowers.

The leaves of the belladonna lily are long and, generally measuring up to 20 inches (50.8 cm) in length and about an inch (2.54 cm) in width. The leaves, which are arranged in two rows, are generally produced in autumn, after the plant is done flowering, remain green through the winter and wither away in spring before the next flowering. The starch produced by the leaves is stored in the plant bulbs, and the bulbs remain dormant until the end of summer.

Belladonna lily plants are often grown in rock gardens, in borders, and with annuals or ground covers. They are easily cultivated and do nor require a great deal of care. They are prone, however, to attacks from the lily borer caterpillars, which eat the leaves and bore into the bulbs. If spotted, these pests should be gathered and thrown away.

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