Oxblood lilies shine brightly each fall

Oxblood lilies,  Sperry home landscape

Oxblood lilies,
Sperry home landscape

Rhodophiala bifida Oxblood lily, also known as hurricane lily and schoolhouse lily

When my wife and I moved to McKinney in September 1977, we saw this charming little bulb in bloom in several of the old neighborhoods. It was even in flower in front of a house that was later removed as the McKinney airport was expanded. That home was moved to our next-door neighbors’ property, and they live in it now, but the bulbs were lost in the airport construction.

A daylily grower had a patch of oxblood lilies in his backyard, and in the early 1980s, he shared a start with me. Those bulbs have flowered faithfully each September since. But there were only a couple of dozen of them, and I was afraid to move them.

I found a source of 100 bulbs, actually on eBay, three years ago. The lady was clearing out a bed, and she had them offered at a really good price. Those are the bulbs you see blooming in this photo.

Oxblood lilies produce their leaves during the winter and spring, then as summer winds down, out shoot the flowers. They’re borne on 12-inch stems, and they’re about 1 inch in diameter, deep red and glorious.

You can plant oxblood lily bulbs just about any time that you find them. Those plants that were given to me in May still had leaves on them, so that wasn’t the ideal time. Late summer would be best, and some sources still offer them into the fall.

Plant them about 3 inches deep into reasonably good garden soil. Either give them a dedicated spot in a perennial garden (marked off so that you won’t dig through them in their off-season), or plant them in a mass as I’ve done here. The stones are there for people who drive off our driveway. The grass wasn’t doing too well in the shade anyway, and the lily flowers and foliage find their way up through the rocks. Other than occasional watering (every few weeks is fine), these plants get no other care.

As for sources, here are a few places that sell them. The bulbs are rather pricey, so you might want to do a little searching as I did before I planted the ones in my photo. I found bulbs listed at these sources. (Each of these businesses has an outstanding reputation. You will find oxblood lilies from other sources online as well.)

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com/spring/productview/?sku=47-0205

Plant Delights Nursery http://www.plantdelights.com/Rhodophiala-bifida-Hill-Country-Red-for-sale/Buy-Hill-Country-Red-Oxblood-Lily/

The Southern Bulb Company http://www.southernbulbs.com/oxblood-lily-or-schoolhouse-lily/

And, you might even get lucky as I did on eBay. Search for “Rhodophiala,” “oxblood lily,” “schoolhouse lily” and “hurricane lily.”

Posted by Neil Sperry

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