A Colorful Surprise During Hurricane Season

By Kathy Conner Cornell VCE Southside Master Gardener Sometime, whether at a plant sale or plant swap, I got a Hurricane Lily from my dear friend Mildred. It has a very unusual life cycle so I am surprised every time I see it emerge. The plant goes by many names including Resurrection Lily and Red Spider Lily but the botanical name Lycoris radiata remains constant. My husband and I were sitting on the porch waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Laura and I noticed that the Hurricane Lily was blooming its bright red head off. Hurricane Lily is grown from a bulb and the short daffodil like stems come out after blooming to spring and then fade away. You won’t see any signs of life and forget about the plant until August and there it is. The blooms have long stamens that look like spider-legs but unfortunately the show doesn’t persist for long.
The bright red blooms of the Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata, appear at the height of hurricane season. A pleasant surprise every year. The plant comes from China and Japan and is in the Amarylliaceae family, the same as the amaryllis that we see for sale at Christmas time. Beware, and I’m speaking from experience, most bulbs in this family are poisonous. So don’t plant the bulbs if you have a dog that loves to dig. Plant in full sun, expect fewer flowers in part shade. Hurricane Lily spreads by bulb offsets and by seed. It s always a nice surprise to see a new plant come up in another part of the garden. Often it is blooming when many perennials have given in to the heat of the summer. Bulbs should be planted in the fall. In “Herbaceous Perennial Plants”, Allan Armitage says to plant the bulb 6” deep and North Carolina Cooperative Extension says space 6 – 12” apart. Bulbs can be divided in the spring but division isn’t necessary until 7 years or so. Hurricane Lily is considered an heirloom plant and indeed you will find it at abandoned farm properties and along roadsides. A plus, deer don’t like them. While we are all still practicing ‘social distancing’ due to COVID-19, and all Halifax County buildings are closed to the public, if you have gardening questions, you can best reach an Extension Master Gardener or Extension staff member by sending an email to wmccaleb@vt.edu or ask@ssmga.org. If you can’t email, you can call and leave a message at the Extension Master Gardener Help Desk at 434-830-3383, giving us your name, telephone number, and nature of the call. The Help Desk phone is checked timely and someone will get back to you, although it may be from a different telephone number. Keep washing your hands, wear your mask and fix a nice beverage, watch the Hurricane Lily and be thankful that you aren’t in a hurricane.