The Hippeastrum genus comprises around 80 species within the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes two other well-known bulbous crops: Narcissus and Galanthus. Hippeastrum is native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America. Considerable confusion has always surrounded the correct naming of this plant with many breeders, growers and traders persisting in referring to the plant incorrectly as ‘Amaryllis’. However, during the 1820s, British botanist, Dean Herbert (1778–1847), showed Amaryllis (native to Cape Province in South Africa) and Hippeastrum (also known as Knight’s Star Lily) to be fundamentally different botanically and assigned them to different genera.
Early developments in Europe and North America during the 19th century owe much to the discoveries of botanists and explorers who brought back Hippeastrum species from South American countries which breeders used to create new hybrid groups.
Breeding developments continued throughout the second half of the 20th century resulting in the creation of new hybrid types and colours.
Since the 1980s, the professionalization and expansion of breeding activities has led to an explosion of new hybrids and types in an expanded colour range. This period was also characterized by the establishment of many significant cultural research projects that resulted in the rapid expansion and professionalization of commercial hippeastrum cultivation.