The enchanting blossoms of spider lilies seem to appear out of nowhere following late-summer rains. Try these classic bulbs at home to create your own miraculous show.
Spider lilies move around with us in the South. True pass-along plants, these bulbs thrive in old gardens, yards, and cemeteries. Their show starts a few days after a good rain shower in September. From bare ground, stalks burst through and unfurl their Chinese red, 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, spider lilies go by several common names—"British soldiers," "Guernsey lilies," and "surprise lilies"—and also their botanical name, Lycoris radiata.
Virginia Sue Barr of Oak Ridge, Louisiana, got started with spider lilies from her grandmother. She combines them with another kind of lycoris, called "naked ladies" (L. squamigera), which has bright pink, funnel-shaped blooms in July and August.
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. Select a sunny or partly shaded spot with loose, well-drained soil. Plant spider lily bulbs so the top of each bulb neck is right at or just above the surface of the soil. Virginia Sue says she likes to divide hers just after they bloom, "because I can find them then."
Buy Them Now!
Red spider lilies are part of the Southern Living Plant Collection (southernlivingplants.com). Find them at your local nursery or online at southernbulbs.com, oldhousegardens.com, or brentandbeckysbulbs.com.