How to Grow Blood Lilies

Blood lily (scadoxus multiflorus) plants in bloom

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The common name "blood lily" is sometimes used for a variety of species, but this name most frequently refers to Scadoxus multiflorus, formerly known as Haemanthus multiflorus. This unique plant produces large, spherical flower heads that look like red fireworks or fireballs. Made up of red, star-shaped florets with yellow-tipped stamens, these flowers explode from the landscape and attract bees, butterflies, and birds.

Each flower stem is smooth and has no foliage. Bright green semi-succulent leaves may appear while the plant is blooming, but these leaves can also appear later. Blood lily plants produce red berries in the fall. 

Botanical Name Scadoxus multiflorus
Common Name Blood Lily, African Blood Lily, Fireball Lily
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 24 in. tall, 15 in. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Loamy, sandy, moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Bloom Time Summer, Fall
Flower Color Red
Hardiness Zones 9-11, USA
Native Area Africa
Toxicity Toxic to pets

Blood Lily Care

Despite its wild looks, the blood lily is quite easy to care for and does not demand much attention. Whether in the garden or a container, this plant does best with loamy, sandy soil that is moist but well-draining. A consistent watering schedule is important during its growing season. Bright, indirect light or partial sunshine is preferred. 

The blood lily needs a time of rest in order to bloom year after year. Once the flowers are spent, stop watering and allow the plant to die off and sit dormant for the winter. After dormancy, adding fresh soil and watering more frequently will enable the blood lily to bloom again with vigor. Pests may include mealybugs or spider mites

Light

Bright, indirect light exposure or partial sun is best, as the blood lily does not handle intense sun well. Afternoon shade is especially beneficial to protect these plants from the effects of the hot afternoon sun.

Soil

Loamy or sandy soil that is rich in nutrients is ideal for the blood lily. These soil types offer good drainage, which is important since these plants fare poorly in soggy soil.

If potted in containers, mix rich potting soil with sand. This mixture will allow the soil to stay moist while offering excellent drainage, which is important for a healthy plant.

Water

Blood lily plants have moderate watering needs; avoid overwatering. Your watering schedule for a blood lily will vary based upon the plant's growing stage.

When the plant is actively growing, water consistently to keep the soil slightly moist. However, as the plant begins to go dormant, stop regular watering and allow the plant to die off. Water only to prevent the soil and dormant plant from drying out completely. Increase watering when the plant begins to grow again. 

Temperature and Humidity

These plants prefer warm climate conditions and do best when temperatures are at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Being native to Africa, the blood lily cannot tolerate frost or cold weather.

Medium to high humidity is best. If kept indoors, misting the plant or setting it on a tray of pebbles and water will help increase the humidity. Keep it away from harsh drafts near vents or windows.

Fertilizer

Fertilize every two weeks during the growing season to encourage healthy growth. A fertilizer high in phosphorus works well for these plants and supports blooming. When the blood lily begins to die off, stop fertilizing. Fertilize again once its dormant period is over.   

Is the Blood Lily Toxic?

Blood lily plants are toxic to both humans and animals. The plant is considered a low severity toxin.

Symptoms of Poisoning

If ingested by humans or animals, the blood lily can cause salivation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Propagating Blood Lilies

Propagating offsets is a simple way to multiply blood lily plants.

  1. When offsets appear, allow the offset to stay attached to the mother plant for two growing seasons. 
  2. After this, use sharp snips to cut the offset away from the mother plant, making sure not to damage the root system of either plant. 
  3. Remove the offset and plant in loamy or sandy soil that is moist. 

How to Grow Blood Lily Plants from Seed

Blood lilies can be grown from seeds, found with the plant's red berries.

  1. Harvest seeds from the berries once the berries fall off or drop when touched. When this happens, remove the berry flesh to get to the seeds.
  2. Place the seeds on the surface of moist potting soil. 
  3. The seeds will germinate and form a bulb initially before sprouting. Keep the soil moist and allow the bulb to sit dormant. Growth should appear in a few months. 
  4. Once sprouted, plant the bulb in an individual pot or a suitable outdoor location that is warm enough (above 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and with adequate light exposure.

Potting and Repotting Blood Lilies

The Blood Lily does not require frequent repotting. In fact, blood lily grows best if it is not disturbed. If you absolutely must repot the plant, gently work the plant out of its container, taking care not to disturb its root system. Repot the plant in a new container with a mix of potting soil and sand. Water generously and allow excess moisture to drain from the pot.  

Overwintering Blood Lilies

Because the blood lily is not equipped to survive cold temperatures, it's important to take the necessary steps to overwinter this plant. For plants grown in the garden, dig up the bulbs in fall; place them in peat moss, and move them to a warm area away from frost, such as inside a greenhouse. Keep the bulbs dry.

If the blood lily plant is grown in a pot, move the pot indoors and keep it as a houseplant during the winter. Be sure to provide enough humidity, since indoor air tends to be drier than the plant's typical growing conditions.