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Surprise lillies signal fall

They are popping up everywhere, in lawns and wooded areas. Often referred to as Surprise lilies, Spider Lilies or Hurricane Lilies, these bulb perennials indicate fall is near. Many sources claim that they bloom two weeks after the first late summer/early fall rain, and if there is no rain they may refuse to bloom at all.

The scientific name for this popular autumn flowering bulb is Lycoris radiata. It made its way to North Carolina from Japan in the 1800’s and then spread across the south. They grow best in a well-drained soil in full sunlight to partial shade but tolerate most any growing conditions. After the flower fades, dark blue-green foliage will appear and is especially attractive during the winter months when other perennials are dormant.

Bulbs can be bought or dug and transplanted in June. I like them best tucked into perennial beds, shrub borders and along the edge of the woods. They can be planted into a lawn but may be weakened over time from constant mowing of the foliage. 

These “lilies” are actually not a lily. They are members of the amaryllis family and are firmly rooted in our landscapes. No doubt there is something magical about these bright red flowers that appear literally overnight. They always surprise me and remind me that fall is on our doorstep.    

  Rebecca Bates is an MSU Extension-Lincoln County agent, and can be reached at 601-835-3460 or by e-mail at rebecca.bates@msstate.edu.