Photo: Steve Bender

Look what popped up in my garden last night after it rained! A red spider lily (Lycoris radiata), one of my favorite fall flowers. If you don't have any, you really ought to plant some. No bulb is easier and it will probably outlive you.

Spider lilies are like shooting stars -- or in Grumpy's case, the cops. You never know when they're going to show up until they do. The bulbs lie dormant in the ground from spring until fall with no sign they're there. Then one September or October day, it rains. And the next morning, you find them.

Spider lilies get their name from the long, spider-like stamens that protrude from the flowers, but I think they look like sparklers. The blooms explode atop naked stems that rise a foot or more from the ground without leaves. After the blooms wither, the dark green leaves appear. They last all winter and spring, then turn yellow and disappear.

How to Grow This couldn't be easier. Plant the bulbs whenever you can get them about in well-drained soil. The tops of the bulbs should be even with the soil surface. Full sun or light shade is fine. Plant them where they won't be disturbed by further digging -- they don't like that -- and over the years, they'll multiply by offsets and seed to form flaming drifts. Don't cut back the foliage until it yellows.

Where to Buy Here are three good sources. 1. The Southern Living Plant Collection in garden centers 2. Old House Gardens 3. Southern Bulbs