Lycoris radiata, commonly called red spider lily, is a late summer-blooming bulb of the amaryllis family. Strap-like grayish-green leaves appear in fall only after bloom is finished. Leaves overwinter and remain in the landscape before eventually disappearing in late spring. Naked flower scapes emerge from the ground in late summer to early fall, each bearing an umbel of 4-6 showy coral-red flowers. Each flower (to 2″ long) has significantly reflexed tepals and exceptionally long stamens resembling spider legs, hence the common name. Scapes typically rise to 1-2′ tall. Leaves reappear in fall after the flowers bloom.
by Dr. Raiz Ahmed Lone, working as Assistant Professor (Floriculture and Landscaping)
Bulbs may be grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. The best flowering is in part shade. Plant bulbs 9″ apart in fall with the top 1/4″ of the neck of each bulb exposed. Plants appreciate even moisture during their growing season, but may be best sited in areas where soils remain relatively dry during the dormant summer season. Plants will naturalize by bulb-offsets and form small colonies over time. Plants are best left undisturbed in the soil.
Planting: The single most important thing about landscaping with red spider lilies is the sun. They need at least 1/2 day of winter sun. That means about 6-8 hours of sunlight during the winter months. The red spider lily puts on its foliage during the winter (January-May) and that is when it takes in the nutrients it needs to produce those bright red flowers the following September. The winter foliage soaks up sun energy during winter as it prepares for summer dormancy. The foliage normally completely dies down by around May.
Plant: Bulbs should not be planted too deep, need about 2-3″ of soil above the bulb. We can plant 2-3 per hole to make the blooms look more natural. Red spider lilies really do well in any type of soil. Red spider lilies thrive in soil that has plenty of organic material mixed in but they do not require fertilizer. Newly planted bulbs would actually be harmed by exposure to fertilizer, so if you are going to apply nutrients, limit the application to established plants when the plants are producing their green leafy foliage during the winter. After planting the bulbs, water the soil thoroughly. Damp soil is fine, as long as the bulbs are in a spot where they will receive plenty of winter sun and the foliage is allowed to die down naturally in the spring. Standing water is not good. Once the summer season starts, the red spider lily will do best in soil that dries out a bit, as this facilitates its entry into the dormant stage when its leaves die back. This period is followed by its blooming season, when it will reward daily watering with long-lasting blooms. Too much moisture in the soil will lead to the bulbs rotting.
Multiplying and dividing: The red spider lily multiplies with new bulb offsets quite readily. The absolute best time to divide the spider lilies is at the beginning of April, when the foliage has absorbed winter and early spring nutrients from the sun and the foliage dies back (turns a yellow-brown). No matter what time you transplant red spider lilies, whether it’s the spring or fall, they often skip a year of bloom after being disrupted.
Landscape use: Best planted in mass for border plantings, a line along a walkway, decorate fence, and around an ornamental tree.
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