How to Grow a Surprise Lily

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The surprise lily (Lycoris squamigera) blooms in August when few others plants are providing color to the garden. In early spring daffodil-like leaves emerge briefly and wilt. Several weeks later, the gardener is "surprised" to see lilac-pink, fragrant flowers appearing on this 18 to 30 inch stalks.

Things You'll Need

  • Surprise lily bulb
  • Bulb planter or garden trowel
  • Water
  • Mulch or other organic material
  • Choose your planting site. Surprise lily does best in full sun or light shade in well-drained soil and is adaptable to either sandy or clay soil. It is an excellent choice for naturalized areas, among groundcovers or in flower beds.

  • Dig your planting holes or remove the soil from the area where the bulbs are to be planted. Surprise lilies should be planted from 2 to 6 inches below the surface of the soil. The colder your area, the deeper the bulb should be planted. Space the bulbs 6 inches apart and in uneven number clusters.

  • Cover the bulbs with the original soil and water well. A light layer of mulch may also be added.

Tips & Warnings

  • This species of surprise lily is suitable for planting in colder climates and rated hardy in zones 4 through 10. Check the USDA Hardiness Zone map to verify planting in your area. Not all lycoris are winter hardy.
  • The surprise lily goes dormant after its leaves have wilted and before the flower emerges. During this period the plant needs little water.
  • Divide bulbs every 3 to 5 years. The surprise lily multiplies rapidly.
  • The surprise lily is a member of the amaryllis family and has a low-level of toxicity if eaten. Be cautious when planting around small children and pets.

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