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Description | Culture



An excellent refereed paper was published in 1994 entitled, SYNOPSIS OF THE GENUS LYCORIS (AMARYLLIDACEAE), by Hsu Ping-Sheng et al. Much of the information here is extracted from that paper.

Lycoris is represented by 20 species originating from the warmer regions of China, Japan, and East Asia, some species extending into cooler regions. Some of these species began appearing through the results of trade and exploration in England and the United States as early as the 1700's. The most popular species in U.S. cultivation being Lycoris radiata, also known as the Red Spider Lily.

Depending on the species, common names for Lycoris include spider lily, surprise lily, hurricane lily, or resurrection lily. It has an extremely beautiful flower coveted for fine flower arrangements. All species are summer and fall blooming; a time when fewer choices exist in the landscape for adding color. Bright colors such as white, red, orange, and yellow are included in a spectrum that also features pastels. Flower form is characterized as either funnel-form or spiderlily-form. Leaves either begin growing in the fall not to die back until spring, or they start growing in early spring not to die back until late spring/early summer. Summertime is their dormancy period after which they will suddenly shoot up a flower stalk of beautiful color, usually lasting around two weeks. THEY ARE VERY DURABLE, tolerating the extremes of drought and waterlogging, resistant to pests, and able to grow in other poor soil conditions with vigor.

Following is a table of species separated by flower form and period of leaf development. Flower color will be in parenthesis.






L. aurea (yellow); 3 varieties

L. Xhaywardii (reddish violet)

L. caldwellii (creamy yellow)

L. sprengeri (purplish rose w/ ink blue tips)

L. traubii (rich orange-yellow)


L. shaanxiensis (white w/ few pinkish stripes)

L. argentea (bluish-mauve)

L. Xalbiflora (creamy white)


L. guangxiensis (yellow w/ reddish bands)

L. squamigera (light purplish pink)

L. Xhoudyshelii (creamy white w/greenish band underside)


L. chinensis (yellow)

L. incarnata (white)

L. straminea (pale straw)


L. sanguinea (apricot-orange); 3 varieties

L. elsiae (salmon)


L. anhuiensis (yellow)

L. radiata (red or rose colored); 3 varieties


L. longituba (white to yellow); 2 varieties

L. Xrosea (rose)


Although some variation exists, a good rule of thumb to follow concerning winter hardiness is that winter growers are "tender" and spring growers are "hardy". The "tender" species are generally adapted to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7-10. The "hardy" growers are generally adapted to Zones 5-9.


This genus is comprised of 20 species, and all seem to share very similar cultural needs. Although some send up foliage in the fall and some in the spring, they are all late summer or fall bloomers. These originated from China and Japan, coming in different flower forms, spider or funnel (trumpet). Hybrids have been developed, but only a few species are mainly marketed by the brokers.

Lycoris is a winter or spring "grower" producing foliage at this time and gaining growth. Dormant bulbs can generally be planted in the months July through September, but actively growing plants the other months out of the year do just fine as transplants, and the argument has even been presented that they adapt more quickly to their new environment in this state of growth.

Bulbs (plants) should be planted at a depth where the "neck" is just under the soil line. If you feel you live in an environment that might be borderline for plant hardiness, you can probably get away with placing the bulb at a depth that has the "neck" about 2" below the soil line. When planting bulbs in groups, place them about 4" apart. If your bulb has living roots, dig the hole so the roots may be spread out. If in leaf, I suggest you cut back the foliage to half its length in very sunny locations. Just like spring bulbs, these benefit from a handful of bone meal per bulb in the planting hole. Water in thoroughly. These flowers prefer well-drained soil and filtered shade but are highly adaptable to a wide range of soil and light qualities. Bulbs should be lifted and separated for replanting about every 7 years, give or take.

Foliage develops in the fall or early spring, depending on the species, and grows through June. Foliage will then die back and leave no trace of the plant until late summer/ early fall, when it will send up a beautiful flower spike that can last a good two weeks. When dormant, these bulbs can be ignored, but if you have a summer drought, I suggest a thorough watering every month in the summer. Of course, they do great in the flower bed, and most will establish well in lawns, too, as long as you don't mow down the foliage in growth. You might even find that they spice up solid beds of English ivy, Asian jasmine, or Liriope.

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