Red spider lily (Lycoris radiata) is one of the most delightful harbingers of autumn in our gardens. Like clockwork, right after the equinox, their sparkling flowers seem to magically explode from the ground, resembling a little burst of fireworks on thin stems about 15” high. Their long, thin leaves, dark green with a lighter midrib, emerge after flowering for a short period in winter before going dormant in spring. They are bulbs that require full sun to part shade and do not want to be kept too wet, particularly in summer. They are best planted in spring, just below the surface of the ground with the tip exposed. Planting within a low groundcover works very well for them and offers a marvelous seasonal embellishment to a carpet of foliage. Once established, bulbs will increase over time to form small colonies by offsets and self-sown seed. Propagation by division is most effective, as seedlings may take up to five years to flower.
This is just one of approximately 20 Lycoris species that are native to China, Japan and the eastern Himalayan region, with flowers that bloom in shades of red, yellow, orange, white and pink. While it is increasingly seen for sale in our local garden centers, red spider lily was traditionally acquired as a “pass-along plant” from a generous gardening friend. However, it and the other Lycoris species are available from mail-order nurseries via a quick online search.