Lycoris squamigera – a Summer Surprise

Lycoris - Surprise Lilies

Surprise! It’s that time of summer when suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, the enchanting flowers of Lycoris squamigera magically appear in gardens.

There are many common names for these flowers – Resurrection lilies, surprise lilies, magic lilies, and my favorite, when it is written on a note and left on my desk at the garden center, naked ladies. “Please call Mr. Smith when the naked ladies arrive.” It makes me giggle every time.

Living up to all of its common names, the bulbs of Lycoris squamigera send up daffodil-like foliage in spring. But instead of flowers rising from the strappy leaves, the foliage yellows in June and then disappears. Disappointing, right?

Surprise lilies - buds on stems - 2

It would be, except gardeners who planted the bulbs know the payoff comes later in summer when 24-inch stems rise quickly from the soil.

Surprise lilies - buds close up

Each stem holds six to eight flower buds.

Surprise lilies - flower close up

Buds open to reveal soft pink flowers lightly stroked with shades of lavender and blue.

Plant surprise lilies in full sun to light shade in early fall. Well-drained soil is preferred, but they seem to handle my clay soil just fine. Bulbs should be planted so that a few inches of soil cover them. The bigger the bulbs, the deeper they should be planted. Wait a few weeks to fertilize so new roots won’t get burned, and then feed with bulb food. In spring, encourage foliage growth with a fertilizer high in nitrogen.

Lycoris - Surprise Lilies - in the rock garden

The surprise lilies in my landscape came from bulbs divided in my mother’s garden more than twenty years ago. I am going to purchase some more in a few weeks and add them to a perennial border. Why don’t you get some too and garden with me!





4 thoughts on “Lycoris squamigera – a Summer Surprise

  1. Have you ever heard people call them Belladona lilies? I had 2 FB friends use that name, but in looking that plant up, it is something related but different. Nice you got your start from your mom. I am surprised you don’t have hundreds by now to keep you from having to buy them. Have you ever been shocked at the prices they sell for when they multiply so quickly? I have dug some to sell at herb festivals and I only charged a dollar a bulb; sometimes $2.

    1. Thanks for comment Sharon! The surprise lilies I originally got from my mom were planted in an area that grew shadier and shadier over the years and the bulbs started to decline. I moved a bunch of them to my sunny rock garden where they are doing much better. I think instead of trying to divide these planted among rocks, I will just get some new ones. They are expensive, there’s no doubt about it. I expect to pay at least $4 a bulb, but will only need to get a handful. I am a patient gardener! Thanks again for the comment, Sharon, and thanks for reading my blog!

  2. I have ONE! ONE surprise naked lady! LOL It literally popped up over night Thursday and bloomed today…I wish I could send you pics…it is at our lake house and is perched like it is enjoyed the view of the water! It’s so beautiful and I don’t want to damage it by trying to divide or anything…but it’s in a terrible spot. And there is just one lonely naked lady… Any advice?

    1. Hi Maggie. This is wonderful! I would leave it right where it is and wait a couple years. The bulb will divide in the meantime and when you do go to move it, you will have more!

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