Schoolhouse Lilies Have Timing Down Pat

Oxblood lilies resemble tiny amaryllis, but they bloom in early fall.

I first saw this beautiful little bulb 40 years ago at an abandoned home in McKinney. I grabbed a photo of it and did a little research. I found out that it’s oxblood lily, also known as schoolhouse lily because it blooms about the time school reconvenes in the fall.

Two years later I found it growing in a friend’s daylily garden in Mansfield. He had an entire row of it. He sold from his garden, and I got my first 25 bulbs. They’re still prospering, blooming reliably every fall – well enough that I really don’t want to move them, even though their garden is now shrouded by trees that have grown up and around it.

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So I set out to find more of the bulbs several years ago. I didn’t see them in nurseries and what few sources I did find sold them one or two at a time and for a price that seemed unusually high. But I found several sources on eBay. For the most part those bulbs have done very well for me, although I did learn to check on the bulb size before I bought.

Things to know about oxblood lilies…
Height in bloom 10-12 inches.
Flower color: red, although other shades are sold. Red is still the showiest.

Oxblood lilies in full bloom (first of three rounds of flowers). These flowers appeared where none existed just five days before.

Flowers appear almost overnight. You’ll have one or two one day and scores a couple of days later.

This is the way leaves of schoolhouse lilies look in winter, early spring. You must leave them in place as they store food for the following fall’s blooms.

Leaves are glossy, dark green and grass-like. Appear in winter and die away in late spring.
Plant in well-draining soil that stays moist throughout the year.
Our plants get no special fertilizer and I’ve never seen an insect or disease bother them.
I hope you can find some. They’re best when planted in clumps or drifts, not individually. You can divide them as they become crowded, although I’ve never dug and divided my own.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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