A Surprise Worth The Wait

Don’t you love surprises?

Like your senior prom, the anticipation is sometimes more fun than that which is being anticipated.

But on occasion the anticipated does not disappoint.

Wistfully waiting, wishing and wanting…

…Then the moment arrives.

It is all your hopes fulfilled.

Wait just a second, one little part of the hope is not fulfilled yet!

Ahhh, that is perfection. (Note the little buzzer just to the left of center.)

The Zenith has been reached.

Degradation begins.

On to the next shiny thing.


The photos:

1. Eastern Goldfinch on Echinacea purpurea seedhead, Dianthus ssp. and Heuchera ‘Brownie’ and H. ‘Citronelle’ behind left, Sedum ‘October Daphne’ behind right.
2. Eastern Golfinch on Echinacea purpurea seedhead, Hosta ‘Sum And Substance’ behind.
3. Buckeye butterfly on Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum.
4. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar on Bronze fennel, Foeniculum vulgare.
5. Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindra ‘Rubra’, Hosta ‘Gold Edger’ behind.
6. Lycoris radiata.
7. Lycoris radiata.
8. Lycoris radiata.
9. Lycoris radiata, Hosta ‘Sunpower’ behind.
10. Lycoris radiata, Hosta ‘Sunpower’ behind.
11. Surprise! Bet you thought it was going to be another Lycoris shot! Instead, it is a Buckeye rare Tawny Emperor butterfly, thanks Randy!, that decided to attached itself for a salty snack to the bottom side of my upper arm while I was perusing plants inside the very warm greenhouse at Mouse Creek Nursery. Getting the camera in the right position was a struggle. He was not going to let go, even with vigorous arm shaking, after the photo session was over. Finally he was gently plucked with thumb and forefinger from his suctioning and placed on a Rudbeckia.

Facts about Lycoris radiata from Mobot:

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 5b-10 where bulbs may be grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best flowering is in part shade. Plant bulbs 9” apart in fall with the top 1/4″ of the neck of each bulb exposed. Plants appreciate even moisture during their growing season, but may be best sited in areas where soils remain relatively dry during the summer dormant season. Plants will naturalize by bulb-offsets and form small colonies over time.

Red spider lily is a late summer-blooming bulb of the amaryllis family. Strap-like grayish-green leaves appear in fall only after bloom is finished. Leaves overwinter and remain in the landscape before eventually disappearing in late spring. Naked flower scapes emerge from the ground in late summer to early fall, each bearing an umbel of 4-6 showy coral-red flowers. Each flower (to 2” long) has significantly reflexed tepals and exceptionally long stamens resembling spider legs, hence the common name of Spider Lily. Scapes typically rise to 1-2’ tall. Plants of this species have a short flower tube resulting in the sometimes-used common name of short tube lycoris. Plants are also sometimes commonly called hurricane lily, especially in Florida, because the flowers bloom in hurricane season. Plants in the genus Lycoris are sometimes commonly called resurrection flower, surprise lily, magic lily or naked ladies because the leaves disappear in summer with the flower spikes seemingly rising from the dead in late summer. Genus name comes for the name of the Roman mistress of Marc Antony. Specific epithet from Latin means “spoke” in reference to the spreading flower tepals.

The plant growing at Fairegarden was ordered in August of 2008 from Plant Delights Nursery. This is its first ever bloom here. We are surprised at the magical resurrection of the naked lady spider as Hurricane Earl approaches the eastern shores of the US.


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29 Responses to A Surprise Worth The Wait

  1. Risovic says:

    Lovely!everyoan need to see ! ((:-


  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is a gorgeous naked lady. I haven’t seen one this color before. She is quite exotic looking.

    P.S. I hope Big Earl doesn’t mess with that lovely place you like to take your family each summer.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. The color is wonderful. There are yellow ones that I am looking to order as well. I have several of the pinks, passalongs from neighbors Mae and Mickey. Thanks too for the good wishes for our beach getaway spot, but it is on the southern end of the South Carolina coast. I think they are getting some rain and high waves with Earl. Who knows what these other storms will bring, though.

  3. James Golden says:

    In Mississippi, my mother grew these in the lawn. They would mysteriously appear each year. I loved them, and even wonder if I could keep them alive in zone 6. But better just keep the memory of them growing in her zone 8 lawn.

    Hi James, that is a fond and wonderful memory. It seems you just plant them and walk away, no human intervention can help. They don’t like to be disturbed.

  4. Barbara H. says:

    What a lovely reminder to watch out for them when I mow (soon!). I had never seen them so that first fall here they certainly surprised me, as well as amazed me, as they emerged from their hiding places in the lawn.

    Hi Barbara, thanks for stopping by. I read that they don’t even bloom every year, it would be easy to miss them. Mine are planted, as the photos show, right by the path so I can give them extra water and see the spike arise.

  5. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, I love red spider lilies! Mine disappeared per usual, but didn’t return this year~I think it drowned in the heavy rains in May. I am going to add these to the bulb list~Love the spider lily with the little buzzer. xxooogail

    Dear Gail, thanks. They don’t bloom every year, so let us hope yours did not drown, but were just sedated. Semi has one that bloomed last year but not this year. I have seen them in Knoxville blooming in October. I have given these extra water so maybe hers will bloom later. I am thinking about getting the yellow flowered ones as well. I love them. 🙂

  6. Eileen says:

    Beautiful plant – wonder if I could grow it in my zone 5 garden. I think I am 5b, so I would be on the edge but it’s worth a try.


    Thanks Eileen. I would give it a try, you never know. I waited two years for this bloom and even bought a potted one rather than a bare bulb. That seems like a better bet, the roots were not disturbed when planted. I was sooooo careful! 🙂

  7. Layanee says:

    5b? I will have to give the another try. This is a lovely surprise.

    Hi Layanee, thanks. Do try again. I would, this flower is worth it. 🙂

  8. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    I liked your story with the photos and the lead in that was waiting in the inbox. Good images and you have the patience of Job to wait for two years. I would have forgot abut it and dug it up along the way. Resurrection flower, definitely would have dug it up.

    Thanks Donna. I paid a lot of money for this and put it in a special place where I wouldn’t forget it. I have the pink ones that I have learned the hard way, don’t move them, don’t mess with them and give them extra water when we have drought in the summer. I am looking at white and yellow to add to the garden someplace where I will see them and close to the hose. 🙂

  9. Randy says:


    Your upper photo is a buckeye, but the other one on your skin getting salts is the uncommon Tawny Emperor! Loved the caterpillar shot, to date Meg has raised 19 Black Swallowtails in the classroom and we have had 3 more here in the garden.

    Hi Randy, thanks! I wasn’t sure what it was, could only see the closed wings and had seen many buckeyes in the greenhouse. Mouse Creek has a kajillion butterflies, for she doesn’t spray, has all the flowers and plants with open greenhouses and the irrigation sprays onto the gravel driveways for them to drink. There is also a wet area and creek on the property. I need to go there with the camera more often! How cool about the classroom. The kids must be enthralled! 🙂
    ps, I don’t know what I would do without you helping me with these IDs, Randy! I really appreciate it!

  10. CarolK says:

    That Lycoris radiata is simply exquisite. Your photography is also exquisite. I was chasing a Monarch around yesterday with a camera as she was laying eggs on my milkweed – I envy your snaps.

    Hi Carol, thanks so much. I envy your egg laying Monarch! We can’t seem to keep the milkweed going here, we are simply too dry. I think we are only nectar source for them, there must be wet fields nearby where the babies are growing. Just not on my property.

  11. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I have yet to successfully grow Lycoris and my late pal Amy also planted them without ever seeing blooms. They evidently do not like Houston.

    Hi Cindy, thanks for stopping by. So sorry about your lack of blooms. The Mobot said zone 10, what zone are you in? It took two years for a bloom here, and no guarantee we will see blooms ever again, but we are optimists. 🙂

  12. Les says:

    One of the signs of impending season change. I am not sure I look forward to it.

    Stay safe, Les. We will be thinking of you as this weather approaches.

  13. Jenny B says:

    Tawny Emperor butterfly was not shy, was he? I have so much trouble getting butterfly photos because they are so nervous–how nice to have one so attached to you!

    Ah, Naked Ladies! Your’s look like a fanciful curlicued handlebar mustache. I planted some last year…hmmmmmm…I wonder where I put those little darlins? I hope they do surprise me and pop up.

    Hi Jenny, thanks. It must have been well over 100F in that greenhouse, I was quite dewey. The butterfly photo shows his tongue firmly attached, along with his sticky legs. I should have brought him home with me! I hope your Lycoris gives you a nice surprise as well. I need more, famous gardening words! 🙂

  14. VW says:

    Congrats on that fine red bloom! I’m sad that the expensive ‘Waterlily’ colchicum I planted last year did not survive the winter to send up leaves in the spring or flowers this fall. Ugh. I’m glad your fall-blooming lycoris finally made a showing.

    Hi VW, thanks so much. It was worth the wait. I am so sorry about your colchicum. Are you colder than Kathy in northern New York state, Cold Climate Gardening? She has loads of colchicums, maybe she could give you some tips about getting them to winter through. 🙂

  15. goodtogrow says:

    Wow, gorgeous photos!

    Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed them. 🙂

  16. chen says:

    Very nice of you to share such beautiful surprise with gardeners that cannot grow or get it to bloom. I think such exotic beauty deserve a more poetic and elegant name than ‘surprise lily’ and ‘naked lady’ etc.

    Hi Chen, thanks to you for visiting! I think the name Lycoris fits it well. 🙂

  17. Valerie says:

    What a lovely flower and worth the wait. I wonder if we can grow it here in southern Ontario. Possibly a tender perennial.

    Hi Valerie, thanks. It was worth the wait. I am glad we only had to wait two years for it. I once waitied ten years for an orchid to rebloom. That is near my limit of patience. I believe you might be able to grow it, 5b? 🙂

  18. The combo of the Lycoris & Hosta ‘Sun Power’ is smashing! But then you know how I love wild color combos.

    Thanks MMD. I too like the wild colors together. But I no longer think of them as wild, just nature at its best. 🙂

  19. Barbarapc says:

    Oh Frances, the Lycoris is/are magnificent. USDA 5B hmmmmm. I wonder if I dare – although things are getting warmer and warmer. Here they’re sold like Amaryllis – fancy bulbs to be enjoyed and stored for the winter. Lovely post.

    Hi Barbara, thanks. Maybe they will make it for you. Remember, it can take years for them to bloom so patience is required. 🙂

  20. Carol says:

    Well, boo, that flower wouldn’t be hardy in my garden. Nope, not at all. I will not want it, I will not want it, I will not want it. Will not.

    So sorry, Carol. I thought you were zone 5. Glad you don’t want it anyway.

  21. Wow! Frances that is a beauty. A real drama queen. Lucky you… I suppose I could grow it in a pot though. Great shot of the Tawny … tell me someone else was taking the photo??? I love the last shots of your Lycoris radiata … gorgeous!

    Hi Carol, thanks. We were pleasantly surprised at how lovely this flower turned out to be, at just over a foot tall, a petite in stature but breathtaking bloom. I took the arm photo, and it wasn’t easy! I could have put down my purse, I suppose, but the sprinklers had just run inside the greenhouse and everything was quite wet. It was a juggling act! 🙂

  22. Rose says:

    This is a gorgeous Lycoris; I’ve never seen a red one like this before. While it may be a surprise lily, I think there are pleasant surprises around every corner of your garden, as your photos show. The last picture proves once again what a butterfly magnet you are, Frances!

    Hi Rose, thanks. I had only seen the red ones briefly while driving by an abandoned house in Knoxville, blooming their heads off in October in the midst of ruins. Not really red, but a darkish pink, they are wonderful and I hope will bloom in the years to come. Butterflies like my salty sweat! HA 🙂

  23. lynn'sgarden says:

    WOW! WOW! WOW!! Frances! LOL…I’ve been trying to get a good shot of the yellow finches on my coneflowers too! And that last shot…awesome!! Hugs, Lynn

    Hi Lynn, thanks and hugs back to you! I take the photos from inside the house with the zoom setting. The wind is always blowing the stems and it is rare to get a fairly clear image through three panes of glass. It would help if I washed the windows! HA 🙂

  24. Jake says:

    That is a unique looking Naked Lady. I love unique. All I saw around here in people’s yard in KY a few weeks ago when they bloomed was the pink/white colour.

    Hi Jake, thanks, so nice to see you. We have the pink kind too, Lycoris squamigera. It blooms here around the end of July. Yellow and white spider types have been ordered. We like unique as well. 🙂

  25. hostabuff says:

    Frances, You can grow such magical, unusual looking plants in your zone. I love the Lycoris – very interesting.

    Hi Hostabuff, thanks so much. We are fortunate in our zone for the wide variety of plants we can grow. This Lycoris is one of the most magical, I agree. 🙂

  26. Gorgeous caterpillar!

    Hi Jenn, thanks so much. We were happy to see the catts on the quickly drying up fennel. Just in time for fall. 🙂

  27. Hmmm, it might be pushing the zone a bit but I would consider giving something that gorgeous a try here in Wisconsin. Color and form are equally dazzling.

    Hi Linda, thanks. I like your attitude! Instead of lamenting the zone challenge, you are ready to give it a try! One never knows until they try. 🙂

  28. Town Mouse says:

    Isn’t that the best thing about gardening? There’s a surprise every day! Great pictures.

    Hi Town Mouse, thanks. It is one of the greatest joys of gardening, the surprises. Constantly changing. 🙂

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