LYCORIS radiata – Red Spider Lily

September Surprise Lily of the South

Red Spider Lily

Surprise Lily of the South blooms in fall

After a long hot summer in the deep South, the earth comes alive with color from these sleeping bulbs. The red spider lily is a perennial bulb that blooms in late August or September. A single stem emerges out of the ground unexpectedly and within days reaches a foot tall. The bloom opens a spidery look with long filaments that leave the center of the bloom, dip a little, and come up again with distinctive anthers and surrounded by modified petals.


Red Spider Lily Bloom

Red Spider Lily Bloom

The History of this bulb

In 1854 Commodore William Perry opened the ports to Japan aboard some of the U.S. Navy’s first steam powered ships while under orders from President Millard Fillmore. Aboard one ship in the fleet was a certain Captain William Roberts, who had a keen eye for horticultural treasures. While in Japan, Captain Roberts acquired three bulbs of a plant with red spidery type blooms. His niece would later described the bulbs as being, “in such a dry condition that they did not show signs of life until the War between the States.” These three bulbs survived and eventually thrived in their new North Carolina home before spreading across the Southern U.S. This triploid mule has proven Texas tough, and although it does not produce seed, it offsets new bulbs quite readily. It also produces more bulbs and larger flowers than its modern counterpart from Japan. Some say that the flowers bloom two weeks after the first good fall rain. If there is no rain during the month of September, the bulbs have been known to not bloom altogether. The foliage follows the flower, staying green well through the winter and into late spring. As a good “rule of thumb” for most bulbs, plant at a depth about three times the height of the bulb.

Red Spider Lilies are the alarm clock for the sleeping South. – Chris Wiesinger


British Soldiers

British Soldiers - Rows of them look like Red Coats from early Colonial times

Botanical Print of Red Spider Lily

Botanical Print of Red Spider Lily

Scientific: Lycoris radiata
Planting Time: Year Round
Shipping Period: Late Spring to Early Fall
Bloom Period: Early Fall
Bloom Size: Softball Sized
Zones: 6-10
Color: Red
Soil: Any
Planting Depth: 2-3″ of soil above the bulb
Landscaping: 3-5 bulbs per square foot
Fragrance: None
Light: Half Day of Winter Sun
Height: 12″-16″
Wildlife: Not Resistant
Reliability: Moderate Reliability

Plant Red Spider Lilies will provide years of enjoyment

If you are looking for something unusual that will get your neighbors to ask you “What is that blooming?”, then adding these magnificient bulbs to your garden is an easy decision.

While the flowers last for a few weeks, you’ll be enjoying them year after year in your garden. A welcome respite from the long hot summers of the South. A harbinger that fall is coming and with it, cooler days, welcome rains and renewal.

Red Spider Lilies planted in cemetery

Where to find these bulbs?

The Southern Bulb Company specializes in bulbs for warmer climates that are adapted for the South. You can order them online.
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