Will the Real Amaryllis Please Step Up?
There is a wealth of conflicting information when it comes to the popular Amaryllis flower. Such confusion is what comes from letting gardeners talk among themselves without supervision :) So what is an amaryllis, really? What most people mean when they say Amaryllis is actually Hippeastrum. This is the botanical name for the various species and hybrids that fill the market arround Christmas time. If you want to be botanically correct, call them Hippeastrum, otherwise continue to use Amaryllis.
Botanically speaking, the only amaryllis is Amaryllis Belladonna from South Africa. It is a beautiful flower hardy to zones 8+ and common in California. They are also called pink "Naked Ladies". Occasionally the white form is available, and very rarely there is also a red form which resulted from hybrid crosses with Brunsvigia (another South African native bulb).
Often you hear that Hippeastrum (every-day Amaryllis) are from South Africa. This is the result of confused information with Amaryllis Belladonna. Hippeastrum species originated from across Central and South America. In the last 150 years, these species have been crossed into the beautiful hybrids you find today.
In addition to these Genus (Amaryllis and Hippeastrum) there is a multitude of flowers which are part of the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). These are typically beautiful, reliable, and pest resistant garden flowers. They include: Amaryllis, Hippeastrum, Crinum, Nerine, Zephyranthes (rain lilies), Habranthus, Lycoris (spider lilies), Narcissus (daffodils), Sternbergia, Clivia, Sprekelia, Hymenocallis, Cyrtanthus, Scadoxis, Galanthus (snow drops), Worsleya and more.