Amaryllis 101

  • Posted on 07/12/2016 by Laura

It’s funny how these tropical flowers are a favorite for holiday bouquets and arrangements. But it makes sense when you know that these flowers grow and survive remarkably well indoors. While the flower originates in the tropics of the Caribbean and the western cape of South Africa, the flower has a Greek myth attached to it.

The Legend

Amaryllis from the Greek word, amarullis, meaning “splendor” or “to sparkle.” A character in Virgil’s poem, Eclogues, seems to have originated this term. Amaryllis was a nymph madly in love with the gardener, Alteo. Every day for a month she showed up at his door to pierce her heart with a golden arrow. The gardener, unimpressed, ignored her. Still the blood of her passion has become associated with the Amaryllis flower, as the petals are often a deep shade of red.

There is another slight variation of this legend. In this legend, Alteo is a shepherd boy who had known of Amaryllis’ affections but allowed them to go unrequited. She wanted to win him over by giving him what he desired most, which was a unique flower that didn’t yet exist. Amaryllis sought the advice of the oracle Delphi. Following his instruction, Amaryllis stood beyond Alteo’s door in all white for 30 days, piercing her heart with a golden arrow. Though Alteo ignored her for a long while he did eventually open the door. What he found was a beautiful crimson flower erupting from her chest.


In addition to the legend associated with flower’s splendor, the flower’s name also originates from the word, amarelle, because of the bulb’s bitterness.


The flower’s tall height seemed very grand to the Victorians who cultivated them. They were proud of their towering flowers, thus causing them to take on the meaning of being full of pride. During this time, to the Victorian gentlemen the flower represented beautiful women, strength, and self-confidence.

  • Red: passion, love (unrequited or requited), beauty. Also in China, this colored amaryllis is lucky.
  • Purple: royalty, spiritual side of life.
  • Orange: good health, happiness.
  • White: purity, femininity, children innocence, mourning for a loved one.
  • Pink: love and friendship for both genders and all ages.
  • Yellow: luck, happiness, good times ahead.

Fun Facts

These flowers are also sometimes known by the names of “naked ladies” and “belladonna lilies.”

One bulb from the amaryllis flower can live for up to 75 years.

All parts of the amaryllis are poisonous to eat.


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