Lycoris Squamigera: The Hardy Amaryllis Bulb For Shade

blooming Lycoris squamigera

The Resurrection lily – Lycoris squamigera is one of those plants touched with enchantment.

Its leaves, looking like those of larger daffodils, appear in early spring, die and disappear by the first of July.

Then, usually in August, as if in obedience to a wizard’s command (so rapidly do they develop), naked flower stalks, 2 to 3 feet high.

They push through with great will and produce, in less than a week, a cluster from 5 to 10 rosy-pink, sweet-scented blossoms.

Lycoris – The Amaryllis Relative

Lycoris is in the amaryllis family and was long known as Amaryllis halli. The name Lycoris comes from the mistress of Mark Antony and Roman actress.

It’s been called the resurrection lily because it seems to die and live again. It’s also known as the surprise lily or magic lily because the flower stalk and buds seem to come so suddenly.

Reference books, the older ones, give misleading information about the Lycoris Squamigera plant. When botanists first came upon it, they had difficulty in placing it in its proper category.

Early authorities, not knowing the bulb was hardy, wrote their plant care instructions as if for a tender plant. But, although it resembles other lycoris varieties in form and structure, it differs from them in one very important way.

Lycoris Squamigera Difference – It’s Hardy!

Many of the lycoris bulbs (red spider lily) are tender and must be treated as greenhouse subjects in the north. Lycoris squamigera is hardy and, can therefore, be suitable for planting in northern gardens.

Grow Where Daffodils Grow

It will, in fact, do well in any location daffodils grow. On Long Island (N. Y.), it has been massed planted and flower beautifully year after year without being disturbed. Growers in other northern locations report similar results.

Planting Squamigera

lycoris squamigera from Curtis Botanical Magazine Vol 123 - 1897

Lycoris squamigera bulbs are available in late summer and early fall and should be planted then. They should be spaced one foot apart as they multiply fast once established.

The proper planting depth of Lycoris may vary with locality. I was told to plant bulbs 4 inches deep, but none bloomed until the bulbs grew up to the surface.

Now I plant with the neck of the bulb just below the surface, and cover the barely-showing tips over winter with twigs and branches.

Reputation as Uncertain Bloomer

The hardy amaryllis has a reputation as an uncertain bloomer. I suspect the uncertainty is due to planting depth.

  • Several Virginia gardeners report that bulbs planted deeper produce good leaf growth but no bloom.
  • A New England reader shared, that it is necessary to plant the bulbs 8 inches deep, then goes on to say hers did not bloom until their fifth year.

It is possible the same relationship exists between rate of bulb increase and planting depth that we have with daffodils and tulips, but I have been unable to verify that.

Where Does Lycoris Squamigera Grow

The hardy amaryllis is reported thoroughly hardy in the New England states. It does well in the Chicago area. It flourishes in many localities along the Gulf.

It is reputed to do much better in this country than in England, which may indicate that it dislikes too much summer moisture. Good drainage is probably essential to it. The best results I’ve seen have been from a planting on a wooded hillside.

For prettiest effects, Lycoris should be planted with flowers or shrubs that will cover its bare stalk with their foliage which will also set off the lovely blossoms to advantage.

Propagating & Collecting Squamigera Bulbs

Bulb collectors have reported harvesting several buckets of lycoris from a single planting.

The rate of increase varies, presumably depending upon several factors. Three “clumps” lifted from the edge of a woodland after eight years averaged a dozen bulbs to each original bulb.

More than half of the 36 bulbs were of flowering size, but none was as large as the original bulb.

Bulbs planted in the open and lifted after six years averaged only three to the original bulb. Bulbs transplanted a year after planting showed no sign of increase.

Pest and Problems

So far I have seen no reports of insect pests, but I watch bulbs for the possible presence of Spanish moth.

The larvae of that moth do sometimes destroy considerable plantings of hymenocallis and other near relatives of the hardy amaryllis.

The amount of attention needed to guard against this one possible danger is negligible, and the flower is well worth many times the care.


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