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Lycoris squamigera is often confused with:
Amaryllis belladonna Amaryllis belladonna
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Muscari
Verbena bonariensis Form
Clematis flower, Johnston County, NC

Lycoris squamigera

Previously known as:

  • Amaryliis hallii
  • Hippeastrum squamigerum
Phonetic Spelling
LY-kor-iss skwah-mih-JER-uh
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

The surprise lily is a perennial bulb in the Amaryllis family, and it is the hardiest of all the plants in the Lycoris species. The bulbs are about 3 inches in diameter and have long necks and can persist for many years once established. The foliage emerges in late winter to early spring with silvery gray greenish strap-like leaves that measure 12 inches long and 1 inch wide and grow in clumps. The foliage dies away in late spring. In late summer to fall, the surprise lily emerges like magic and produces 5 to 7 four-inch pale pink trumpet-like blooms atop the 2-foot tall stalks.

The surprise lily is native to Southeast China, Japan, and Korea and is found in moist disturbed areas in valleys and along streams. It has been available in the United States since about 1880. It was originally, mistakenly identified, and sold as Amaryllis halli.

The genus name, Lycoris, honors the Roman actress and mistress of Marc Anthony. The plants in this genus are commonly known as the resurrection flower, surprise lily, or magic lily. Many of the common names originate from the bulbs' unusual growth habit. The foliage appears in the spring and then dies in the summer, and the plant flowers appear to rise from the dead by late summer on naked stems. The specific epithet, squamigera, means "bearing scales." This references the small scales on the flower petals that cause an iridescent sparkle.

The surprise lily is easy to grow. They prefer full sun to partial shade. When planting, bury bulbs to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. and space them 6 inches apart.  They grow best in well-drained, fertile soils, and they should be watered sparingly during the rest period and moderately during their growing season.  They will adapt to many soil types. Transplanting should be avoided since this plant dislikes being disturbed. This plant does not need pruning, just simply remove the spent foliage and stems. The bulbs will suffer cold injury when temperatures drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. To protect them over winter, it is best to apply about a 2-inch layer of mulch.

The surprise lily is propagated by division, but they will not bloom the first year after being divided since the bulbs need to establish new roots. They may need to be divided about every 3 years. This plant is triploid or has 3 sets of chromosomes instead of 2, which results in it being sterile.  

It would be best to incorporate these bulbs in a mixed ground cover or flowerbed so that their starkness will not be so readily apparent. When the bulbs are planted in clusters, the surprise lily can be a showstopper. Consider these bulbs as a container planting, border, patio planting, meadow, or woodland setting. The flowers are showy. fragrant, and a good cutting flower. 

Seasons of Interest: 

Bloom: Late Summer and Fall      Foliage: Late Winter and Early Spring

Quick ID Hints:

  • strap-like silver grayish green leaves in the late winter and early spring, measuring 12 inches long and 1 inch wide, die back late spring
  • fragrant, 2-foot tall flower in late summer that has 6 to 8 funnel or trumpet-shaped, rose-pink, and tinged with lilac 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This plant has no serious insect or disease problems. They may be susceptible to aphids and lily leaf beetle. 

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

Profile Video:
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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbirds#bulb#poisonous#full sun tolerant#fall flowers#pink flowers#cottage garden#summer flowers#deer resistant#summer bulbs#fall bulbs#rock garden#cutting garden#naturalized area#butterfly friendly#partial shade tolerant#meadows#woodland garden#container plant#pollinator garden#landscape plant sleuths course#groups
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbirds#bulb#poisonous#full sun tolerant#fall flowers#pink flowers#cottage garden#summer flowers#deer resistant#summer bulbs#fall bulbs#rock garden#cutting garden#naturalized area#butterfly friendly#partial shade tolerant#meadows#woodland garden#container plant#pollinator garden#landscape plant sleuths course#groups
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Lycoris
    Species:
    squamigera
    Family:
    Amaryllidaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Bulb
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeast China, Korea, and Japan
    Distribution:
    Native: Southeast China, Korea, and Japan. Introduced: United States
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant is deer and rabbit resistant.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 6 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 6 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Bulb
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Trumpet
    Flower Petals:
    6 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are 3 inches in diameter, fragrant, rose-pink with purplish veins, and funnel or trumpet-shaped. They appear on 2-foot naked stems in late summer to fall. They bloom in groups of 6-8 and have 6 recurved slightly wavy petals and are slightly nodding. Blooms appear from August to September.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Fleshy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are up to 12 inches long and 1 inch wide, silvery grayish green, strap-like leaves in a basal arrangement. They appear in late winter to early spring, and then they die back in late spring before the flowers emerge.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Rabbits
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN. Abdominal pain, salivation, shivering, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Lycorine, an alkaloid
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Roots