Turn some heads next time you are in a car with friends by exclaiming, “Look at those naked ladies in that yard!” And then enjoy a laugh as the non-gardeners in the group will learn that ‘naked ladies’ is one of the common names given to Lycoris radiata.
This Southern heirloom, fall-flowering bulb, is also known as red spider lily and hurricane lily, and flowers are popping up in landscapes throughout the area. Flowers stalks emerge without any leaves hence they are ‘naked’.
Lycoris are native to China and Japan with flower colors of white, red, yellow and pink. The red color is the most commonly seen in local gardens. It is fully hardy in our Gulf South climate and the bulb multiples freely. The others bloom well but are slower to multiply so therefore are more expensive at garden retailers.
The pink flowered ‘magic lily’ L. squamigera is the first to grace gardens with its stately pink flowers just as the hurricane season gets going in July and August. Then the yellow L. aurea and red L. radiata follow in September and October.
Lycoris flowers are followed by foliage that is similar to narcissus foliage. Leaves remain green throughout winter and then yellow and fade in May. The month of May is the best time to dig and divide crowded clumps.
Expect only the largest of the bulbs to bloom the same year as most will wait one full year to once again begin their annual bloom cycle.
The best Lycoris are grown in full sun to partial shade. Those growing in shade will flower before those in a full sun exposure. By planting the bulbs in various locations receiving various summer sun and shade, you will be able to lengthen their blooming season in the landscape.
Bulbs enjoy a soil rich with organic matter. I grew large red spider lilies in full sun with regular applications of slow release granular fertilizer. The result was a beautiful display of late-summer color and bulbs the size of small onions or double-nose narcissus (daffodils). This holds especially true with heirloom red spider lily bulbs rather than the imported Japanese bulbs.
I grew up with red spider lilies but it wasn’t until I attended LSU that I saw my first yellow Lycoris blooming on Highland Road. I was lucky to find bulbs for sale at Hart’s Nursery.
Andy Hart, nurseryman and florist, was a wonderful teacher and taught me many things about growing lycoris. Always plant bulbs with the necks just above the soil. Mulch with leaves to maintain even soil moisture and to reduce weed competition. Never cut the foliage. Always wait until it dies naturally before removing the brown, withered leaves. Cut flowers and enjoy indoors as an elegant floral statement.
Bulbs bring bling to garden
Enjoy speaker Al O’Brian present “Adding Bling to Your Garden with Bulbs” at Burden, 4560 Essen Lane on Oct. 1.
The Burden Horticulture Society sponsors monthly Reflections in the Garden program every first Monday.
Bring a lunch if you’d like and listen to O’Brian discuss gardening with bulbs from noon to 1 p.m. Visit (http://www.burdenhorticulturesociety.com) for information.
Attend symposium in Oct.
With such featured speakers as Dean Norton, Mount Vernon’s director of horticulture; Heidi Sheesley, owner of Treesearch Farms in Houston; and floral design instructor Lynette McDougald of Mississippi State University, no other gardening program brings together top quality speakers and historic plantation settings as well as the Southern Garden Symposium in St. Francisville on Oct. 12-13.
Known as much for its engaging social events and historic venues as for its outstanding gardening lectures and workshops, the symposium has become an annual tradition for garden enthusiasts from across the South.
Symposium events are held at several historic and picturesque locations, both public and private, including Afton Villa Gardens, Rosedown Plantation, Grace Episcopal Church, Wyoming Plantation, Rosebank Plantation, and more.
For complete program information and registration forms, visit (http://www.southerngardensymposium.org) or call (225) 635-3738.
Navigate the corn maze
The LSU AgCenter and Burden Horticulture Society will kick off the annual Corn Maze at Burden from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in conjunction with the LSU Rural Life Museum’s Harvest Days.
Admission is $3 for corn maze activities. This family fun event will feature a corn maze, paint-a-pumpkin, a straw mountain and hayrides.
There will be a big hay mountain for the kids to climb and the balloon slingshot.
Try finding your way through the corn maze Saturdays from Sept. 29 through October from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for $5 admission. Oct. 27 will feature a bonfire, hotdogs and music from 4 to 9 p.m. and admission will be $10.
Got a gardening question? Write to Bob Souvestre, horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter, at Burden Center, 4560 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, or email to email@example.com, or call Master Gardeners at (225) 763-3990.