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Products > Lycoris radiata var. radiata
Lycoris radiata var. radiata - Red Spider Lily
Image of Lycoris radiata var. radiata
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Bulb/Tuber/Rhizome etc.
Family: Amaryllidaceae (Onions)
Origin: China (Asia)
Flower Color: Red
Bloomtime: Fall
Synonyms: [Amaryllis radiata]
Height: 1-2 feet
Width: <1 foot
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Lycoris radiata (Red Spider Lily) - A perennial bulb with narrow gray-green strap shaped leaves that have a paler central stripe emerge in October and are retained through winter but sheds them with warmer temperatures to lie dormant through spring and summer. In late summer into early fall appear the flower stalks rising 1 to 2 feet topped by an umbel of four to six 2-inch long bright-red flowers that have narrow crinkled segments (tepals) that curve backwards and have very long delicate red stamens arching upward from the centers of the flowers that remind some of spider's legs.

Plant the bulbs in full sun to part shade in a well-drained soil with about 1/4 of an inch of the neck exposed and spaced in groups about 6 inches apart for maximum visual impact. Irrigate only when leaves are present and natural rainfall not sufficient. There is no need to irrigate this plant in our dry summers but the dormant bulbs don't seemed to be harmed by regular irrigation and some think an occasional watering while dormant is beneficial in hotter inland gardens or when the plants are grown in containers. Plants in the ground are cold hardy down hardy to 0 F and useful in USDA Zones 6 to 10 and are tolerant of a variety of soil types, from sand to clay so long as it drains adequately. This is an attractive plant in larger groupings for borders or meadow plantings where other plants can occupy the space while they are dormant. In flower they can draw the attention of hummingbirds, butterflies and other insects but the foliage is resistant to predation by deer and rabbits. We list this plant as poisonous to alert others of the danger of eating any such plant but the alkaloid lycorine it contains is considered a low severity poison. If a bulb is consumed one should certainly seek medical attention as it can cause abdominal pain, salivation, shivering, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Lycoris radiata var. radiata is originally from China, Japan, Korea and Nepal where it is typically found in shady, moist areas along slopes and rocky stream banks. The name of the genus honors of the stage name of Volumnia Cytheris, a Roman actress and mistress of both Brutus and Mark Antony. The species epithet is the Latin word meaning "a spoke" in reference either to the flower tepals spreading out like the spokes on a wheel or to the flowers that radiate out from an umbel. The plant was first introduced into the United States in 1854 after the Convention of Kanagawa treaty opened up trade with Japan. It is thought that plant enthusiast and naval officer Captain William Roberts returned from Japan with only three bulbs for his wife Elizabeth and these were planted in their New Bern North Carolina garden and later shared with friends and family. It is from these original plants that this species has naturalized in many states in the Southeastern US, very possibly all from gardeners sharing the plants since it is a sterile plant that does not reproduce by seed.

Red Spider Lily has many other common names. With the flower color and long spindly spider leg-like stamens its most referenced common name is Red Spider Lily but because it blooms without leaves it is also called Red Magic Lily, Naked Lily and Red Surprise Lily. Because it flowers in the late summer or autumn it is called Equinox Flower and because this flowering is often in response to heavy rainfall, one popular common name is Hurricane Lily. Because this plant is planted in cemeteries with flowers the color of blood, the idea arose that they drew blood from the dead, conjuring up the names Corpse Flower, Resurrection Lily (which also could reference its bloom naked of leaves after a rain) and Death Flower, though some note it the toxicity of the plant that contributes these names. The flowers swaying in the breeze in cemeteries made some think they looked like ghosts, giving rise to another common name, Ghost Flower'. We thank Lucy Tolmach, past to Director of Horticulture at Filoli Gardens in Woodside for providing us with an ample supply of bulbs for us to put up. Image on this page credited to:

Jim Evans Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA (] 

This information about Lycoris radiata var. radiata displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.