Is a "Naked Lady" a lily? No, the versatile spider lily, sometimes referred to as naked lady or mystery lily, is not a true lily; rather it belongs to the Lycoris genus, part of the Amaryllis family. Their large, striking blooms have curled petals and stamens that give them their spidery appearance. They do not bloom in the manner that other flowers do. A clump of foliage appears and lives through the winter, then disappears in the spring. In late summer or early fall, after you have forgotten where the bulbs are planted, the blooms appear, seemingly magically and overnight, on stalk-like stems with no foliage, standing like pink and coral "naked ladies."
In order to establish them in outdoor plantings, do not disturb bulbs for several years. Pass this advice to friends when sharing the bulbs so they won't think the bulbs have disappeared. The fact that it takes so long for them to appear may be why spider lilies are also called mystery lilies. Sometimes they are also called jump-up lilies, but they are not the same as Magic Lilies (I. squamigera).
Because spider lilies are not fussy about sun or shade, they can be used anywhere you would like some late-summer color. However, they bloom best with at least four hours of full sun daily. Because they tolerate dry soil and partial shade, they add vibrant color if planted at the edges of woodlands, directly in the lawn, or tucked into ground covers. In the fall, dig and divide and transplant. These lilies give you your money's worth.
Note: These bulbs will probably be available at the Master Gardeners' Fall Bulb Sale, September 14, at the Rose Garden.
Patricia Walker, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Red Spider lilies are also known as Naked Ladies, Surprise Lilies, Schoolhouse Lilies and Hurricane Lilies.
Red Spider lilies, Lycoris radiata, are perennial flowers originally from Japan. The slender 12-18 inch stems with no leaves carry bright red flowers with red stamens, fanning outward and up like curled fringe or long eyelashes. They like well drained mildly alkaline soil, but can adapt to most soils. Plant bulbs pointed stem side up approximately four inches deep. To see why they earned the nickname "Surprise Lilies" plant bulbs directly in the turf. Mow the grass as usual until bloom time in early fall. Then watch them rise and bloom in mass for a beautiful red display.
They bloom in the fall. As the flowers die, narrow green leaves one-half inch wide with a stripe down the middle form a mound 12-18 inches high and make food for the bulbs from late fall until early summer. Wait until the leaves yellow and die in the heat and cut them back. One bulb can produce five new bulbs in a year in a superior environment. The bulbs multiply inside thin papery skin similar to a garlic bulb. They should be divided and replanted every 2-4 years. Parts of the plant are poisonous when ingested.
The plants look feathery and fragile, but they are aggressive in flowerbeds and unless divided diligently, they will crowd out other plants. In a few years, you will have many bulbs to share with other gardeners. Red Spider Lilies grow well in our area, multiply fast and make spectacular displays of color in turf, in borders, or mixed with groundcover.
Juanita Price, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service