Germinating Amaryllidaceae (Rhodophiala, Famatina...)

Includes the following genera: Rhodophiala, Phycella, Famatina, Placea

Includes the following species: Rhodophiala advena, Rhodophiala ananuca, Rhodophiala andicola, Rhodophiala bagnoldii, Rhodophiala laeta, Rhodophiala montana, Rhodophiala phycelloides, Rhodophiala rhodolirion, Rhodophiala sp. #1006, Rhodophiala sp. #2495, Rhodophiala splendens, Placea ornata, Famatina maulensis, Famatina cisandina, Phycella ignea.

Generally very easy to germinate and relatively easy to maintain. Most species do not require cold stratification, but would benefit from it.  They germinate at a wide range of temperatures (+5º C - +25º C) after about 15 - 30 days.

The species which originated from northern Chilean desert  (Rhodophiala laeta, bagnoldii, ananuca, advena)  germinate better at cooler temperatures, but they do not need cold stratification. If you have problems germinating them, try lowering the germination temperatures to about +12º C + 18º C.

The species from the Central and Southern Chile (all the others) usually germinate well at any temperature. However, a very good idea which would guarantee almost 100 % germination is to let them undergo a cold stratification of 15 – 20 days (maximum) at + 4º C. For some species, like Rhodophiala montana, it is mentioned in literature that they do not germinate without cold treatment. Our experienced is that this species does germinate without cold stratification, but that a cold stratification always increases the speed and percentage of germination.

Also, there is an article on germinating Placea which indicates that all Placea species initiate germination when kept at + 4º C around day 12, and by day 20 more than 90 % are germinated. On the other hand, if kept initially at +25ºC,  germination at day 15 is 0 %, and at day 25 % may be around 3 – 5 %.  When put in cold after undergoing the +25º C exposure, the germination accelerates somewhat, and at day 40 is around 5 – 30 %, depending on the species. That means that initial exposure to warm temperatures reduces drastically the chances of successful germination! 

It is highly probable that this can be extrapolated to other Rhodophiala species, because they share similar habitat conditions and have similar germination mechanisms.

The seeds can be sown either superficially or in the soil; superficial sowing may be better for germination, but care must be taken not to let the seeds dry out.

Watering should be moderate; in its natural habitat the seedlings must often face dry conditions, so after the germination it is Ok to have less water. Some users have reported fungus problems, probably due to over watering.

Substrate: good drainage extremely important; can be organically rather poor substrate.

Adult Plant Dormancy: All species seem to undergo a process of dormancy.

The species from the north are naturally exposed to long, dry periods with temperatures of about +16 + 20º C which may last for 9 months and sometimes for several years.

The species from medium to high mountains (Rhodophiala andicola, Rhodophiala montana, Rhodophiala rhodolirion, Rhodophiala araucana, Rhodophiala moelleri, Rhodophiala splendens, Famatina maulensis) are exposed first to dry, warm period of about 3 months, followed by cold, wet/freezing period of about 6 months, where the soil and the bulbs are covered by snow.

Soil Types of Natural habitats:

Rhodophiala montana - sandy soil, volcanic ash.

Rhodophiala rhodolirion - poor, compacted soil with rocks (still with good drainage).

Rhodophiala andicola - volcanic sand and porous volcanic rock/slag, extremely good drainage.

Rhodophiala splendens - sandy soil, somewhat richer in humus then the preceding ones.

Rhodophiala advena - heavy, compact clay-type soil, but! very little humidity in natural habitat. So careful with watering.

Rhodophiala bagnoldii, Rhodophiala ananuca - almost pure sand (beach type), sparse watering.

Rhodophiala laeta - heavy soil, with clay and rocks, very little humidity.

Phycella ignea, Phycella bicolor - both heavy clay with little drainage and mountain type poor soil with good drainage. Little humidity.

Famatina maulensis - black type, rich soil, constantly wet (this species is a kind of exception), but aerated (constant water flow).

Famatina cisandina - sandy to rocky, poor soil.