Resurrection Lily: Plant Care & Growing Guide

Spider Lily, Surprise Lily
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One of the drawbacks to certain lily varieties is the lanky foliage that gardeners left to deal with when the blooms are gone. However, what if you could have all of the beauty of the lily blossoms without the gangly foliage? Resurrection lilies, also known as surprise lilies, are named for their sudden appearance in early fall, when they spring forth from the ground without any prior noticeable growth to announce their presence.

Not a true lily, these plants are part of the amaryllis family. They should be planted in the late summer to early fall months, but don't expect to see any flowers the first year. After that, the greenery will begin to grow in the spring, with flowers appearing in late July or early August. L. squamigera is deer- and rabbit-resistant and does not have any significant risk of pests or diseases.

Botanical Name Lycoris squamigera
Common Name Resurrection lily, surprise lily, magic lily, naked lady
Plant Type Flowering plant
Mature Size 1.5 to 2 ft. tall, 1.5 to 2 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Well-drained, sandy, loamy
Soil pH 6.5
Bloom Time Late July, early August
Flower Color White, pink
Hardiness Zones 5 to 9
Native Area Japan, Korea
Toxicity Toxic if consumed

Surprise Lily Care

Surprise lilies are fairly low-maintenance flowers. The unusual growth habit of surprise lilies helps them thrive in areas with rainy springs and dry summers, so they do not need any supplemental irrigation during their dormant period. In fact, excessive summer watering can cause the bulbs to rot.

Surprise lily bulbs are large, similar to their cousin the amaryllis, and may reach about 2 inches in size. Choose the plumpest bulbs to get the best flower show in the first season. If you're dividing bulbs, you can replant smaller bulblets, but they may not flower for a year or two. Plant the bulbs about 4 to 6 inches deep, or slightly deeper if you’re planting them in a zone they’re marginally hardy in, in a location that gets full sun or partial shade. Pick a spot where the flowers can remain for the long-term, as the plant doesn't like to be disturbed after it's planted.

The plant's leaves will die back during the late spring or early summer months, but you don't need to pick anything off of the plant. A couple months later, you'll be surprised by the blossoms in various shades of pink that are growing from the naked stems.

Light

Resurrection lilies thrive in locations with full sun. However, the plants will tolerate partial shade, particularly in warmer climates.

Soil

These plants aren't too particular about their soil, but they grow best in a loamy bed with good drainage. If the soil is poor-quality, work a 3-inch-thicken layer of compost into the top foot of soil.

Water

The L. squamigera plant is not drought-tolerant, so it needs moderate watering during its growing season. However, you should limit watering during its dormant period during the winter months, as well as during the period in late June when the foliage begins to die back but the blossoms haven't sprung forth yet.

Temperature and Humidity

Resurrection lilies may be hardy—in fact, they're the hardiest of all the Lycoris species—but they don't appreciate extreme temperatures. If subjected to extreme heat or cold, its flowers will be smaller and fewer. Resurrection lilies suffer from cold damage when the temperature dips below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. To protect the pant, spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch on top of the bulbs in the winter.

Fertilizer

Give the plant about a month to settle in before fertilizing, or you risk burning the roots. In the autumn, feed it with a high-potassium fertilizer, then provide a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the early spring to encourage growth.

Are Resurrection Lilies Toxic?

L. squamigera is poisonous if consumed, due to the alkaloids, lycorine and galanthamine, that the plant contains. However, the toxicity level is low.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Signs of poisoning after consume a resurrection lily include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Salivation
  • Shivering

Propagating Resurrection Lilies

After a few years, the blooms of the plants may look diminished, which means it's time to propagate via division. Before lifting the bulbs, water them thoroughly. Use a shover to lift the bulbs carefully, aiming to keep as much soil around the roots as possible. Quickly work a 3-inch-thick layer of compost into the top 12 inches of soil, then gently divide the bulbs and replant them 6 to 12 inches apart at a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Water them thoroughly, and add a 2-inch layer of mulch over the soil. The plants won't bloom the first year after being divided because they are establishing new roots.