Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spider Lilies Steal the Show in Late Summer

Lycoris radiata radiata-Red Surprise lily

Once you have been bewitched by these ethereal bulbs, you will want more! I began seeking them out, and liking what I found..! The first one I grew was the traditional Southern favorite, the red spider lily. Some refer to them as hurricane lilies, fairy lilies or by their rightful description-Lycoris radiata.

Lycoris radiata pumila

These are the most common one you will see in the southern United States.These are sterile, polyploid plants, producing a  larger, more showy display. There is another L.radiata,---pumila. I think this is the original species, that's still fertile and seed bearing,  and half the stature of the popular L.radiata radiata.I'm buying some bulbs from a new collection from china, this is great, because I will have a whole new gene pool to work with. It seems like only about half of the discovered "species" are really natural, sterile hybrids that can only be multiplied by a slow division of the bulbs. One species that is a likely natural hybrid is, Lycoris houdyshelii. This spider lily is a real stunner! It has about the same stature as L. radiata, but the bloom cluster is larger and more ruffled. It is norrmaly a creamy white with streaks of pale pink, getting stronger with age. When I took this shot, only a touch of pink was apparent, due to the 100 degree weather we were having. Cooler temperatures would have brought out more blush, but it's still a highlight in my late season garden.

 Lycoris houdyshellii
Another amazing species is believed to be one of the parents of the popular Naked Lady pink surprise lily, L.squamigera. The other participant in this clandestine mating is most likely L. longituba. This is the spectacular L.sprengeri. It will not only surprise you with it's appearance seemingly out of nowhere, but with it's shocking true blue petals. The base of each petal in a bubble gum pink, but depending on the individual plant, it can be almost entirely covered with electric blue!

Lycoris sprengeri just opening..

the color is really more pronounced in sunlight..

The last one I'll talk about, is actually the first to bloom, late July here in the central Midwest. Lycoris sanguinea var.kuisiana is a demure plant, with smooth petals, in a soft salmon orange color. It has been shy to bloom for me, alternating years at this point. I believe in spreads by runners or roots, because it has shown up at least three feet away from the original bulb. It has never set seed that I know of, but that could be an answer as well! This year, just as the first and only stem was making it's debut, a snail got to the flower stalk and ate right through it! I found it laying on the ground, decapitated. Oh well, one more year I won't get seed! UGG. I brought it in to the house were it bloomed for well over a week. Lycoris make excellent cut flowers!

Lycoris sanguinea var.  kuisiana

There are some truly beautiful man made hybrids and more species as well--these are all hardy in my zone 5 garden, there are more tender species and cultivars for a little warmer location, in to zone 7-8. Dappled light and adequate moisture is all they need. The "neck" of the bulbs need to be just below the ground surface, but mulch and ground covers are a good idea. They are perfect with Hosta plants, and you can pair the different statures with a appropriate mate in scale-as Hosta come in all sizes too! Surprise yourself, try some Lycoris this year, they get better every season!

Sources: Telos Rare bulbs, Plant Delights nursery, Bulbmeister.com and other specialty bulb vendors-even ebay!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian,

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