Spider Lilies Bloom Like Magic

The enchanting blossoms of spider lilies seem to appear out of nowhere following late-summer rains.

Spider Lilies
The long, delicate stems of spider lilies make them ideal for cut-flower arrangements. Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson

Spider lilies move around with us in the South. True pass-along plants, these hardy bulbs thrive in old gardens, yards, and cemeteries. Their show starts a few days after a good rain shower in midsummer through September. From bare ground, stalks burst through and unfurl their vibrant red show with curvy petals and stamens. As the flowers fade, narrow, green, straplike leaves with silver stripes emerge, persist all winter, and then disappear by spring. Long a mainstay in Southern gardens, red spider lilies go by several common names: "British soldiers," "Guernsey lilies," "surprise lilies," and also their botanical name, Lycoris radiata. Try these classic flowering bulbs at home to create your own miraculous show.

What Do Spider Lilies Look Like?

Red spider lilies are perennials that grow from bulbs. They tend to appear in clumps and can grow to heights of two to three feet. The fragrant flowers appear in mid to late summer and are delicate and bright red. They can be planted in a patch in the garden, and they can also thrive as container plants. (If you're searching for white spider lilies, you'll want to look for the similarly spidery Hymenocallis latifolia.)

How To Plant Spider Lilies

Spider lilies can coexist in the lawn with turf if you avoid mowing while they're flowering and maturing their foliage. They're useful in shrub and perennial borders too. They thrive in full sun or partial shade, so select a sunny or partly shaded spot with loose, well-drained soil. Plant spiderlily bulbs so the top of each bulb neck is right at or just above the surface of the soil. For a top tip, gardeners should divide theirs just after they bloom because it's easier to see them (and therefore to find them). Make it easy on yourself! Keep an eye on them; there's no need to go digging blindly for bulbs below the ground.

Where To Buy Spider Lilies

Red spider lilies are part of the Southern Living Plant Collection at southernlivingplants.com. You can also find them for sale at your local nursery or garden store, and they're also available online via most garden retailers.

WATCH: Here's Everything You Should Know About Daylilies

Do you have a show of spider lilies in your garden in late summer? What are your favorite types of lilies?

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