Around the first of September the red spider lilies spring from the bare earth and in a matter of days are topped by billiant blossoms. Click to download a large version.
In yards and gardens throughout the southeastern US, at the height of the hurricane season each October, 18-24 in (46-61 cm) tall leafless stalks topped with clusters of brilliant red flowers appear seemingly overnight and out of nowhere. Each of the 5-7 flowers has extremely long anthers, giving the 8 in (20 cm) cluster a spider-like appearance. Only after the flowers have withered in a week or two do the narrow, strap-like basal leaves appear. The leaves themselves deteriorate by the following summer and for several weeks there is no clue that the hurricane lily is there waiting for its time.
Native to China and Japan; now widely naturalized in the southeastern United States.
Hurricane lilies are easy to grow. Just plant one bulb almost anywhere in your landscape and it will come up year after year, splitting itself into additional bulbs. Every couple of years dig up the bulbs and divide them. Light: partial shade to full sun Moisture: tolerant of dry periods Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-10 Propagation: Divide bulb clumps in early summer when the plant is dormant.
When many other summer bloomers are exhausted and ugly, spider lily has the splendid trait of exploding into brilliant bloom - as demonstrated by this bunch in Steve's perennial garden.
In mixed borders, meadows and natural areas. Does well in the filtered shade of large trees. Plant clusters of hurricane lilies where you need fall color to replace exhausted summer flowers. Hurricane lilies are stunning in cut flower arrangements, and they last for several days.
The bright red flowers of the hurricane lily make it one of the showiest plants in the October garden. You'll forget where they are until they emerge each fall! There are several similar species of Lycoris: golden spider lily (L. aurea), white (L. albiflora), salmon/orange (L. sanguinea). Another close realtive, the surprise or naked lily (L squamigera) has more typical lilylike flowers that are light pink.