Lycoris Before Us

Lycoris ssp. are members of the Amaryllis family, known by common names surprise lily, hurricane lily and naked, or nekkid ladies, among others. Their time has come.

These common names arise from their flower stalks which appear almost overnight sans any sign of foliage. They are, as we like to say about certain plants here, born pregnant. The flower stalks emerge from the ground with the bulbous petal casing already swollen, ready to give birth to the blooms.

Lycoris squamigera is the first to appear, usually the last week in July. The weather then is always horrendous, very hot and very dry. These are not the best conditions for long lasting blooms, but since we lack power over the weather gods, that is the way of it. Oftentimes we are out of town, vacationing in some pleasant locale, and completely miss the Lycoris squamigera eruption. This year luck was with us, for we had just returned from the garden blogger fling in Seattle to see the pink fluff of flowers.

Lycoris can be divided into two groups…those whose foliage appears in fall and those whose foliage appears in spring. The fall foliage groups are only reliably winter-hardy into colder Zone 7 and warmer Zone 6b climates. Those with spring emerging foliage can be grown into Zones 4 and 5. Here in the Fairegarden we have both kinds. Lycoris Squamigera has leaves that appear in the spring, looking like fat daffodil leaves. Those with fall foliage are also grown, Lycoris radiata being one. Two new varieties with fall foliage that emerges after the flower stalks, a yellow and a white, were ordered last fall, but have not bloomed as yet so will not be included in this post. Maybe some year they will join the story, it is hoped.

While Lycoris are incredibly drought-tolerant, they flower much better when provided with some moisture during their dormant period in late spring and early summer. Moisture can be iffy here beginning in late spring and lasting well into fall. That is why it is such a pleasure to see the fat buds pushing out of the earth, the above being Lycoris radiata.

Last year, 2010, saw the first bloom of Lycoris radiata, aka spider lily, with one stalk. Click here-A Surprise Worth The Wait to read about it. The flowers are a candy coral-red with very long filamentous stamens which are very arachnid looking. We are pleased to note that this year there are two stalks. Let us hope for an exponential increase with each passing year.


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12 Responses to Lycoris Before Us

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have tried those red ones here with no luck. I think they are so pretty. The drought has already taken the blooms of the pink ones here. I hope they survive.

    Thanks Lisa. The flowers on the red spider only lasted two days, sad to say. The pinks a little longer, only because there are more of them. Maybe one of these days there will be rain during their bloom period, but I am not holding my breath for it. Extra watering will help.

  2. Dear Frances, I’m happy for you, really I am; but I’m also terribly jealous. I’ve seen no sign of my yet and I normally would. Maybe I need to go have a better look. H.

    Thanks Helen. They do pop up awfully fast, but even if you missed the bloom, the stalk should still be there.

  3. Gail says:

    They are beautiful! Love the sun shining on them in your garden. I usually don’t notice the emerging stalks until I see those big pink flowers. That makes them an excellent surprise when those blooms pop open! The red and yellow ones haven’t appeared. Maybe next year we’ll have a bit more moisture and they’ll show their sweet faces. Hope springs eternal in a gardener’s heart. xoxogail

    Thanks Gail. I love seeing the stalks as much as seeing the blooms, anticipation is sweet. I have read that they can take a year off sometimes. Extra water helps.

  4. I envy your ability to grow both kinds of Lycoris, although I do love the one I can grow. I just wish I knew what they wanted. I have them planted in several locations around the garden, but only one bulb produces blooms.

    Thanks MMD. They can be tricky, for sure. It was several years before the pink ones started blooming regularly. Extra water helps.

  5. My neighbor had them and they grew so well, multiplying beautifully in our zone 6b gardens. I admired them since I do not grow them. Then this year there were none. Of course I asked what happened and she had ripped them out. She said the red color was ruining the look of her garden with all the pinks and purples. I guess she was not wearing her garden colored glasses as Carol so eloquently phrased it.

    Gosh, Donna, I nearly choked while reading this! To think of someone pulling these out is criminal! Gack! Yes, Carol’s post was a good one with those garden colored glasses.

  6. Sandy Bridenbaugh says:

    I have enjoyed the beautiful pictures on here and your garden is simply enchanting. Look forward to checking it out everyday.

    Thanks Sandy. I post, at present, three times a week, but that could change if I feel like it. The best way to not miss any posts is to subscribe, click the widget at the upper right corner to sign up.

    I did and thank you. I hope to start a garden blog soon cause would love to share garden pictures also. Also love all the blog connections on here. Have visited some already and looking forward to seeing the rest.

    Thank you. I do hope you start blogging, it is so fun and rewarding. Be sure and sign up at when you do, it will help you get visitors. My blogroll is very large and needs to be updated. If you click on a link that no longer works, I would appreciate you letting me know so it can be deleted. I need to work on that bit of housekeeping but it is very time consuming.

  7. Leslie says:

    I’ve mostly, maybe only?, seen the pink variety which are pretty much everywhere here although not in my own garden…yet! Yours make me want to find a spot to shoehorn some in.

    Thanks, Leslie. The pink ones take up a lot of space for so much of the year with those large strappy leaves, then there is the blank period before the bloom, then more blank period. Some would find that unacceptable, but dadburnit, they are so sweet!

  8. Oh, I like these! I’m putting them on the list of potential plants for my new garden 🙂

    Thanks Emily. Good luck with them, they are beautiful but can be tricky. One must be patient.

  9. These are so beautiful. The first picture in particular is absolutely stunning!


  10. Lola says:

    I have some of these beauties but they aren’t blooming yet. I always look forward to them. I thought I had marked them last but something or someone has moved the markers. Hopefully I can try again this yr.

    Those dang marker movers! It happens here as well, Lola. Certainly makes it difficult to find stuff. I am glad you have some though, enjoy them when they surface!

  11. Rose says:

    Thanks for such great information, Frances. The first spring I noticed the Lycoris foliage here (I didn’t plant them), I thought they were the iris I had planted the year before, and I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t bloom. All was made clear later in the summer:) I know where they are now, but still they tend to surprise me every summer. I love your red lycoris, but alas I don’t think they’ll work in my zone 5 garden.

    Thanks for stopping by, Rose. I was just like you with the crazy foliage that showed up in the spring, like fat daffodils with no blooms but tickled when the flowers appeared in late July. The red is later, but you are most likely right about the hardiness. Unless you become zone 6b over the course of this weird weather pattern.

  12. Frances, You’ve excited me no end by mentioning the Zone 4 & 5 hardy Lycoris. I’ve had a jones for this plant for some time — although it looks like the hardy ones might not be the sexy reds. I’ll investigate. Thanks.

    Thanks for visiting, Helen. I think the pink ones are the more hardy Lycoris. Still, they are exquisite flowers.

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