Flesh-pink and sweet-smelling, a crowd of naked ladies is an arresting sight! But best of all, once you have them, all you have to do is gawp. They look after themselves. ‘Naked ladies’ is the common name given to the South African bulb, Amaryllis belladonna. Why? This is because the big pink or white flowers shoot straight out of the ground on thick stems before any leaves appear. Over time, they form a clump, so you can have a dozen or more of these magnificent things standing alone and naked.
As the flowers begin to fade, a clump of strappy leaves appear and remain until the following summer, when they die down for the hot months.
This life-cycle of growing through winter and resting in summer is typical of plants which come from areas where the cooler months are rainy and the hot months are dry. If you grow them in Brisbane or the subtropics, where summers are rainy, grow them in big pots which you can bring under cover in summer to keep the bulbs dry. Just remember, whenever leaves are present they like to be kept moist.
The bulbs are big, about the size of a grapefruit, and should be planted with the tip of their necks at ground level. You can buy the bulbs now through the mail from Garden Express but don’t delay. You’ll need to get them in the ground quickly. You may also find pots of plants in flower at nurseries now or soon. These bulbs can be finicky about being transplanted, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get flowers the first year after planting, but they will bloom the following summer. Always plant them in full sun unless you live inland, where dappled shade in the afternoon is better. Naked ladies will tolerate sharp frosts.