Lycoris Radiata – the Red Spider Lily

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Plants thrive in numerous environments. Some have even developed a way to tolerate our blistering, summer heat. The spider lily is one of these plants. When summer begins to fade, the showy, red flowers begin to appear across gardens and even lawns in the south.

The red spider lily grows from round short-necked bulbs that are approximately 1 1/2 inch thick. It is part of the amaryllis family. They are cousin to the daffodil, Lycoris flower in the fall without the him of leaves. For this reason, they are often called magic lily, surprise lily, and naked lady. Three of the most common are L. squamigera – the tall pink species, L. aurea – the tall golden flowered species, and L. radiata – the short red flowered species.

Spider lily leaves emerge in October from bulbs that are about a quarter of an inch wide and 10 inches long with gray green midveins. The leaves are evergreen during the winter and die with the first hint of warm weather in May. Coral red flowers are produced in September on 16-inch tall scapes. The top of the scape is crowded with a crown of six to ten blooms with each flower having six petals and long exerted stamens, reminiscent of daddy-long-leg spider legs. The common form of spider lily is sterile because it is a natural triploid with three sets of chromosomes.

The red spider lily is the flower that symbolizes the beginning of fall on the vernal equinox. It is an easy to grow bulb that will flourish for years in the garden. This species should be planted in a location with good drainage and where its foliage will be undisturbed during the winter. Once established, it can be left for years with minimal care.