February 01, 2005

Lycoris Squamigera (skwann-ee-ger-uh) or Surprise Lily

You can call it Magic Lily, Resurrection Lily, Hardy or Autumn Amaryllis, Naked Lily, or Naked Ladies, but by whatever common name you want to label this bulb, you have to call it one of the best.
L. Squamigera has a long and prestigious history. Originally from Asia, it was brought to America prior to the Civil War and has been doing fine ever since.
The Bulb is believed to be a cross between a straw colored L. Straminea and a rosy pink L. Incarnata. The bulb is sterile, which means after it blooms it might form seed heads, but none will be fertile. However, the plant does multiply well by natural offsets that form around the mother bulb.
Now why would they call it Surprise Lily you ask? Well, around the fourth of July and up until the middle of August, when there is nothing in the yard that looks good due to all the hot Texas weather, up pops the surprise lily. The first big rain of summer triggers the rather thick scape (flower stalk) to rocket out of the ground. The scape rises quickly in 4-5 days to its height of 2 feet and then reveals a cluster of 6-8 pink funnel-shaped flowers. The flowers look like some small amaryllis blooms (thus the name Hardy or Autumn Amaryllis). They last 4-6 days and even longer if they are planted in a mass planting.
After the plants bloom and the scape have faded away and dried up, don’t expect to see any leaves for a long while. Here in Texas the thick green strap leaves do not emerge from the ground until around January or February and will stay green until late April or early May. After that time it will stay dormant until July when the plant will bloom again.
The book on this bulb is Zones 5-10, a semi-shade to woodland area, virtually any soil, acidic or heavy alkaline clay, and height 24-36”, with spacing of 9-12”. If you have pets and/or children, be aware that this plant is poisonous.
Most Lycoris do not like to be moved or disturbed in any way. It is critical to label or mark them in some form when you are planting them. If you are planting this bulb from a mail order source or dividing a clump, re-plant as quickly as you can. In addition, try to keep the roots wet and intact as much as possible. Even following all of the above procedures the bulbs might not bloom for 2-3 years after planting. So plant only if you are a very patient gardener! As a matter of fact, I planted some of these bulbs two years ago from a plant trade I had made and I am just NOW seeing the leaves come up. On the upside, this bulb is long-lived, and doesn’t need much care. I would suggest you fertilize as soon as the bloom has faded and again in early spring. Do not fertilize any recently planted bulbs until you see some growth. And yes, ladies and gents, I will have some of these wonderful bulbs at the 10th annual AOGC Natural Urban Living Garden Show in June 2005.
Happy organic gardening!

Posted by cheryn at February 1, 2005 09:38 PM