Lycoris Add Surprise, Magic & Resurrection to Your Garden!

Lycoris Add Surprise, Magic & Resurrection to Your Garden!
All About Lycoris For Your Garden

Lycoris is an incredibly tough plant with extraordinary blooms that have inspired legends and a slew of provocative common names. You may know lycoris by the name naked lady, surprise lily, hurricane lily, resurrection lily, spider lily, pop up lily, magic lily or equinox lily.

red lycoris radiata blooms

Lycoris blooms in four colors, red, yellow, white and soft pink. Each is spectacular, but the lycoris radiata - the red shown above - is the most popular variety by far.  Everything about this beauty is dramatic. The lycoris bulb sleeps all summer long, completely dormant. In late summer, the blooms suddenly pop up from bare ground, with these flirtatious, amazing blooms atop 2-foot tall, sturdy, bare stems. Once the blooms are past, the foliage follows from fall through spring, when the plants go dormant once again.

yellow lycoris aurea

When the blooms emerge, they do so suddenly and very quickly, as if by magic! This accounts for the "pop up", "magic" and "surprise" names. The flowers form and fully open atop straight, bare stems, and not until the blooms are past will the leaves be formed. This is the reason for the "naked lady" reference. Springing into bloom in late summer, the plant appears to rise from the dead, which is where "resurrection lily" comes from. 

White lycoris albiflora in full bloom

In their native China, it is said that lycoris blooms in Paradise, sometimes referred to as the "other shore". Legend has it that these blooms appear along the shores of The Forgotten River in remembrance of love that has passed. In mythology, it is said that two elves were tasked to over see and protect the lycoris plant. One, named Mañju, watched over the flower, while the other, named Saka, protected the leaves. Over time, the elves grew curious about the other who shared their guard, but whom they had never met. Defying their fated solitary vigils, they contrived to meet - and they fell in love. Tragedy ensued when the gods were angered, and condemned Mañju and Saka never to meet again.  To this day, the lycoris is known as manjusaka in Japan in honor of the cursed lovers.

red lycoris radiata blooms with butterfly feeding

Lycoris often leap into bloom after the hard rains of late summer, leading to the name hurricane lilies. These remarkable blooms are highly attractive to butterflies, while the entire plant is very resistant to deer, moles, voles and gophers.  Drought tolerant once established, lycoris is a long-lived and low maintenance plant.

fragrant pink lycoris squamigera

Red, white and yellow lycoris are hardy in zones 7-11. The soft pink shown above is not quite so dazzling as the other colors, but it produces a lovely fragrance and is much more cold hardy, naturalizing in climates from zone 5-11.  Plant your lycoris in full sun in spring or fall.  

Lycoris seem to resent being transplanted, often taking a full year to fully establish and begin blooming. Due to this, the summer dormancy, and with active growth continuing in winter, lycoris is not a good selection in climates where it is not hardy.

Will you be planting lycoris in your garden?  I would love to know!  Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Happy gardening!


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  • Kathleen McCarthy
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