An Aztec lily displays its handsome profile so that it is easy to understand why they are also commonly called orchid lilies. Click to download a large version.
Aztec lily is like other members of the amaryllis family: It is a bulb that produces a rosette of strap shaped leaves and a single, showy flower with six tepals. The leaves grow to about 20 in (50 cm) long and come out in spring about the same time as the flower. The flower is about 5 in (13 cm) across and brilliant scarlet or crimson. The flowers are bilaterally symmetrical, like an orchid: they have a broad, erect upper tepal, 2 narrow lateral tepals, and three narrow partly fused hanging tepals. The flower stands on its scape about 12 in (30 cm) above ground, and the bulb itself is about 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. Named cultivars include a white flowered lily, one whose red tepals are edged in white and one that has a golden strip down the center of the upper tepal.
Sprekelia formosissima is the only species in the genus. It occurs naturally in Mexico and Guatemala, characteristically on rocky hillsides.
Culture Light: Grow Aztec lilies in full sun. Moisture: Treat Aztec lilies like any other bulb; they like plenty of water when putting out new leaves and when blooming, but they like it dry when dormant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8-11. Aztec lily is nearly frost-tender, but it can be grown in climates that receive only light frosts, as long as the bulb is protected in winter with some mulch. Propagation: Little offset bulblets can be separated and replanted in autumn. Plant the bulbs so that the top (neck and shoulders) are just above ground level.
After coming face-to-face with an Aztec lily many gardeners find themselves striken with an overwhelming desire to grow them. Click to download a large version.
Some people grow Aztec lilies in a pot. Potted lilies should be kept in full light when growing. As the leaves fade, reduce watering and then keep dry while dormant. Aztec lilies can be grown outdoors in areas that get frost, but they must be lifted in late autumn and stored dry in a frostfree location.