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Plant of the Week

July 23, 1988|LINDA FRENCH

Amaryllis belladonna Naked lady

Tough, drought-tolerant bulb

Odd, but very pretty, Amaryllis belladonna is one of the nice surprises of summer. Nearly forgotten all year, in the heat of August it shoots up slender, bronze stems to 2 feet with pink, trumpet-like flowers radiating from the tops. It gets its common name because of the absence of foliage during its time of bloom.

Naked Lady stops blooming in September, and its leaves surface with the onset of the rains and grow on until May. The leaves grow to about 1 foot, looking a bit like agapanthus, but lighter green.

Most Amaryllis belladonna are a pale pink. However, Burkards Nursery in Pasadena is the exclusive retailer of a back-yard grower and hybridizer, who has developed darker pinks (heading toward rose), whites and even light pink with dark-pink veins. Burkards gets a different selection of colors each week, in flower so you can see what you are getting. The first batch arrives in mid-August; they are sold bare-root for immediate planting.

Plant these South African bulbs in full sun, in spots where they get scant water--not in the wake of sprinklers, for instance. They are perfect for neglected areas with poor soil, as en masse along a driveway. They have difficulty growing in traditional borders, because they will rot if given the water that other flowers demand. They are good cut flowers.

Only when the plants start to perform poorly is it time to dig up and divide the clumps--while they are flowering (if unearthed at the wrong time they may not bloom for years).

Sometimes the clumps will get so large that they are exposed; at this point insects can be a problem. Dig the bulbs up and replant in smaller clumps. Otherwise they can be left completely alone.

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