A Spider of a Different Color

I might have used this variety only as a footnote to a story on red spider lilies if they hadn’t bloomed so beautifully this week in the Sperry home landscape – right along our driveway. This was a planting of just three bulbs I made probably five years ago. I don’t believe I’ve ever had more than three or four stalks before, but this year they’ve gone for broke and they’re absolutely popping their buttons.

This is the explosion of blooms produced by what was only three bulbs just a few years ago.

So in doing my research I found that this is actually a different species, or maybe a hybrid. Where the red spider lily is Lycoris radiata, this one may be L. albiflora. I sent one of these photos to my friend and best-bulb-guy-in-Texas Greg Grant (Smith County Extension horticulturist), and he thinks it’s a hybrid between L. radiata and L. aurea, one he has collected as L. x elsiae. Red spider lilies are stunning. No questioning that. But there are times when you want something delicate and understated, and this one certainly qualifies. You look at them in one part of the day and they look pretty much white. Another time they have a faint pink cast. Greg says that’s normal. So that’s what I have to offer specifically on my planting. (To be very candid, I don’t remember where I got the three original bulbs, but as I’m writing this I’m beginning to wonder if they weren’t a gift from Greg in the first place. Oh, my. I normally remember all gifts.)

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Both types do best in moist, well-draining soils, and I’ve always found that they do best with a bit of shade from the hot summer sun. Not dense, dark shade. Just light shade that keeps the ground from broiling when it’s 105 outdoors.

Yep. The red ones are pretty dazzling. But most gardens are big enough for both. You’ll have to search a while to find white spider lilies, however.

One other thing that most references and websites will tell you is that spider lilies do best where they can be left undisturbed. While most bulbs can be dug and divided every few years, these really do better if you plant them and then leave them alone.

Seeing how well these are doing right here, I think they’re going to stay right where they are.

Oh, and in doing my research for this little piece I came across a fun, well-written story on spider lilies. I can’t vouch for this guy, but this story at least seems to be accurate and worth taking in. Hope you enjoy it.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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