A Cold-hardy Botanical Garden Favorite

Whether you know them as “surprise lilies,” “naked ladies,” or “spider lilies,” the genus of lycoris is sure to impress onlookers in any Iowa garden. Relatives of amaryllis, lycoris put on a late-summer show without leaves to hamper the view of their vibrant rainbow of colors (hence the “naked” moniker). Then, they leave behind slender, strap-like leaves that add texture and interest to the winter garden.

Natives of East Asia, lycoris have naturalized in the southern United States. These cold-hardy (USDA Zones 5b-10) bulbs should be planted in the fall to reveal vibrant blooms the following August and September.

There are a number of species in cultivation including Lycoris caldwellii, L. chinensis, L. longituba, L. sprengeri and L. squamigera. Interestingly, a few of the species commonly found in cultivation are infertile. If you do not want lycoris to reseed outside a specific area, stick with species like L. caldwellii as fertile species will reseed and even hybridize in home gardens.

Now is a great time to think about planting lycoris. For the best results, plant them in full sun with good drainage and as little soil disturbance as possible. The bulbs should be planted roughly six inches into the soil with eight inches of space between each bulb.