Surprise lilies. Hurricane lilies. Naked ladies. Spider lilies. Equinox flowers. Plants in the genus Lycoris sure have a LOT of different common names! These interesting and attention-grabbing names (naked ladies?) come from the plants’ many unusual characteristics. Lycoris are blooming in my garden right now, and I love them for sending off the gardening year with a colorful bang. They are a big, diverse group, but they all have something in common: After sitting hidden underground as bulbs all summer, the flowers shoot up in the fall seemingly out of nowhere. The long, strappy leaves follow after the blooms either later in the fall or the next spring. That odd growth habit means they mix well with other plants that are actively growing during the summer, and their unusual bloom time makes them the perfect antidote to a garden that feels tired and worn after a long, hot summer.
Lycoris radiata (Zones 6–10) has bright red, spidery flowers on the end of long stems and is a classic heirloom plant in the South, where its extreme vigor and resistance to pests and disease means that old plantings persist for years, bringing beauty at the end of each summer.
Lycoris radiata pumila (Zones 5–10) is a slightly shorter and, in my experience, hardier version of the same plant, growing for years for me in Zone 5 in Michigan. For maximal winter hardiness, be sure to plant in the spring or early summer so the plants can root in and get well established before their first winter.
Lycoris shaanxiensis (Zones 7–10) has the same spidery flowers but in a soft yellow. Also, they bloom a little earlier.
Lycoris longituba (Zones 5–8) can have white, pale pink, or yellow flowers. It is one of the hardier species, suitable for colder climates.
This form of Lycoris longituba has a faint creamy-yellow color. Visible just behind it is the bright gold Lycoris chinensis (Zones 5–8).
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