Surprise! Surprise! Spider lilies don’t have to be red.

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Whether you call them hurricane lilies, naked ladies, or surprise lilies, spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) are among autumn's most welcome harbingers. My guess is up until now, most of you would say that red is the only color. Not so, mis amigos. The ones above in my garden now glow the most glorious golden yellow and are every bit as showy as the red. Let me tell you about them.

Aptly named golden aka yellow spider lily (Lycoris aurea) grows pretty much like the red kind. You plant the bulbs in either fall or spring. (You can even plant pots of them in the fall while they're blooming.) Leafless spears of golden flowers with long, protruding stamens reminiscent of spider legs appear without warning in September and October following a good downpour. Butterflies love them. After the blossoms fade, the stems dry up and bright green, strappy leave emerge. The leaves last all winter and finally die down in late spring as the bulbs go dormant. Come fall, voila! Another show.

Golden Spider Lily
Credit: Steve Bender

Growing these lilies couldn't be much easier. Give them full to part sun and well-drained soil. Plant them 4 to 6 inches deep where you plan to leave them, as transplanted ones often skip a year of blooming. Happy plants multiply and form slowly expanding colonies. Note that golden spider lilies aren't as cold-hardy as the red ones, thriving in USDA Zones 8 to 10. If that means you can't grow them in the ground year-round, you can always grow them in pots.

I bought mine in pots from a local garden center last spring. It was the first time I'd ever seen them for sale this way. If you can't find them at your garden center, Southern Bulbs is an excellent online source. Order soon, before the supply runs out!