They weathered the storm

Where many of our tenured treasures failed to survive the great cold spell of mid-February, oxblood lilies have come through with flying colors.

Oxblood lilies look like miniature amaryllis of the spring.

I wasn’t sure they were going to, though. Our son and his wife were in town over the Labor Day weekend – their first, albeit really fast – visit in years. I had so hoped these little jewels would be in bloom to mark the occasion. That’s their usual time to start flowering. But only one lonely blossom.

I feared I had lost most of my crop. After all, they normally bloom in a pack, with scores of flower stalks springing up overnight, almost like rainlilies. The leaves come later, so until the buds show, you really don’t know what you have.

Continued Below

Then, over this past weekend, up came the stalks, buds and blooms. They brought cheer to my heart. I’ve been growing them for 35 years, ever since a friend in Mansfield gave me a hearty start. Those are still growing in another part of our gardens. These are a more recent planting from 8 or 9 years ago, and it looks like they’re here to stay.

Sunlight brings out the rich colors of the oxblood lilies.

What you need to know about oxblood lilies…
Rhodophiala bifida.
Oxblood lily, also known as Schoolhouse lily because it blooms at time school resumes in autumn.
Native to Argentina.
Grows to 10 inches tall while in bloom.
Produces multiple blooms atop its stems.
Often reblooms second, sometimes third time 10-14 days between bloom cycles.
Mass bulbs closely together for best show.
Plant 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart in morning sun, afternoon shade.
Plan on leaving them undisturbed for many years so bulbs can multiply.
Leaves follow fall bloom cycles and will remain in place through winter and into spring. It’s important that you allow them to remain until they die away naturally.
Bulbs may be sold in local independent retail garden centers and from the best online bulb sources. Avoid “bargain” bulb sellers. I’ve bought twice on eBay. The first time I got great bulbs about this time of year. The second time the bulbs from a different source were much smaller, and were quite inferior. Do your homework. Know your source.

Friend and plant-man-above-all-others Greg Grant shared this photo of a pink oxblood lily. He also sent me one of my own. It hasn’t bloomed yet this year, but I’m sure that it will!
Posted by Neil Sperry
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