Surprise Lilies

Have you ever heard of a plant called surprise lily. It looks like a lily plant. I first saw this plant when I was in Georgia and found it in S. Carolina also, however I could not find it for sale or find its correct name.

The surprise lily that I know is lycoris. There are two popular forms: Lycoris squamigeria, naked lady, and Lycoris radiata, spider lily. Naked ladies have pink trumpet shaped blooms and spider lilies have a red, delicate, spider-like flower. Lycoris’ blooms appear long after the foliage dies back in early summer, hence the name surprise lily. If you are like me, you’ll forget they are there until the flower stalk emerges in late summer.

Surprise lilies grow in a broad section of the country, only the coldest regions challenge their hardiness. But even in these areas, if you plant them a little deeper, against a south facing wall, many times you can bring them through.

If you decide to plant some of these in a flowerbed, make sure it’s in an area where you don’t work the soil up too much because you can damage and destroy the bulbs. I actually like to plant them under ground cover, so they’ll come up through a carpet of green and give it a nice sparkle.

Lycoris are versatile and tough. They’ll grow in both full sun and light shade and you will often see them growing alone on old home sites or where the garden has long since disappeared.

You’ll find the bulbs for purchase in most bulb company’s fall catalog, but some companies include them in their spring inventory for summer planting.

Don’t be disappointed if they don’t bloom the first year. It sometimes takes a year of two for them to get settled, but then that will only add to the surprise!