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?
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.
Each stem holds six to eight flower buds.
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.
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!