Red Spider Lily
Red spider lily is probably one of the most beautiful bulbs that we can grow. However, a group or drift that has more than 100 can be pretty spectacular.
I have always wondered if someone has ever planted so boldly. Last weekend, I was able to see them and couldn’t wait to get out of my car.
These bulbs can be seen all over Savannah and the Lowcountry. You can also see butterflies such as the Cloudless Sulphur or bumblebees enjoying the blooms if you are close enough.
These bulbs surprise everyone every September and October, and it is almost like magic. They are also known as red surprise lilies in some areas.
They are botanically known as Lycoris Radiata and are related to the amaryllis.
They are actually Japanese, and they can be naturalized with ease. They can be enjoyed in most parts of the country as they are zone 5a cold-hardy.
The common name they go by is a red surprise, but they also go by schoolhouse lily and hurricane lily.
This refers to the season they bloom. They are sometimes called naked ladies because they don’t have any foliage.
How To Grow Red Spider Lily
It will require some effort to plant the bulbs. It is not so much about tilling the soil but finding them.
Plant your bulbs in spring in fertile, organically-rich, well-drained soil in full or partial sunlight.
Place the bulbs 3 inches deep and 6-8 inches apart. You can plant them in straight lines to create a formal appearance. I’ve also seen beautiful plantings along with decorative iron fencing.
My attention is drawn to the bold informal drifts and mass planting.
The foliage will grow from the finished flower to provide food for the bulb in fall, winter, and spring. It is tempting to cut back the naturalized plants or mow them, but this will cause damage to the next season’s flower.
Divide plants in spring when the foliage turns yellow. This is the best way for a great stand. You can even buy more bulbs for winter.
Red Spider Lily Characteristics
The red spider lily is a short-lived flower that doesn’t bloom for long, so that it can be used in beds with groundcovers like ivy. The flowers will grow above the groundcover, but they will still be visible when they return to the ground.
They have long stamens that give them a tropical look, which makes them ideal for use in the vicinity of bananas or elephant ears. It took a lot of imagination to create great agave and yucca plantings.
My favorite is a bold, informal drift in a meadow-type setting.
The red spider lily, Lycoris Radiata, is listed in most references as winter-hardy to zone 6, but one listed it as zone 3. We are zone 6. The higher the zone number assigned, the less hardy it is.
This plant has pink flowers in the summer, and it is cold-hardy.
Red spider lilies have a lot to offer when it comes to beauty and functionality.
They are beautiful and exotic in appearance, as well as attractive to pollinators. Find your source for spring planting now.
Don’t confuse red spider lilies with Hymenocallis; the large, strap-like leaves 30 inches long make a clump 3 feet wide. Some people call them spider lilies because of their flowers’ thin, white sepals that can measure 11 inches long.
Red Spider Lily Problems
Red spider lilies are a symbol of my mother’s gardening efforts. I have planted many bulbs in the past decade because I am familiar with them.
They are supposed to be easy, but they have not been very successful for me. Did I plant them too deeply? Too much shade. I didn’t realize it was my fault.
I had purchased the striking red spider lily flowers as heirloom stock sprung up in my garden after I bought them.
It’s not because I’ve gained any gardening knowledge, although I’d like to believe so. I finally bought the right bulbs.
Where To Find
You will find spider lilies in old neighborhoods, sometimes on vacant lots that no longer have a house.
These are most likely Southern heirlooms, which is a triploid. The majority of spider lilies that you can buy are imported from Japan and are diploids.
The genetics of the plants determine whether triploids or diploids. It’s enough for me to explain how to plant something.
Spider lily has very long stamens, similar to a cat’s whiskers. It blooms a bit later, and its life cycle is different than our common surprise lily.
The leaves appear in fall, hang around all winter and die in early summer, and then flowers.
Lycoris sanguine with its orange-red flowers has the same life cycle as the red spider lily. I suspect really wet soil will wipe these out.
Tie-dye surprise lily, Lycoris sprengeri, is listed as zone 5 or zone 6. It’s a bit shorter at 18 inches tall. Its small dark pink flowers have tie-dye blue streaking.
If you enjoy experimenting, these naked ladies deserve an invitation to your garden party.