Blood Lily

The Blood Lily Is A Truly Spectacular And Interesting Plant

The blood lily (Scadoxus multiflorus) is one of nine members of the scadoxus genus, and is native to southern Africa. It grows in lowlands, savannah woodlands, and is often found in the shade of trees growing along riverbanks. This flower is also known as the African blood lily, Fireball lily, Catherine wheel, and Poison root. It is a tropical perennial, and will not grow out of doors in areas experiencing winter frosts.



A Plant Of Several Names - Of the names the blood lily has been given, fireball lily seems almost the most appropriate. The plant emerges from the ground in the spring as a single stalk, not unlike the mushroom. At the tip of the stalk an umber containing upwards to 200 blossoms soon appears. The flowers form a sphere which can be up to 10 inches in diameter and the tip of the stem where the ball forms is often waist high. The color of the blossoms varies from a reddish pink to a bright red-orange, and is to say the least, a head turner. One comment is that it looks like a brilliantly colored round bathroom sponge! The plant blooms in mid to late spring. The bloom lasts from about 2 weeks, and it is only after the bloom has died back that the leaves of the plant emerge. The spoon-shaped leaves are also very attractive, deep green in color, with pronounced ribs and a ruffled texture. The leaves stay green until well into the winter months, often not turning yellow and dying back until the plant goes dormant in January or February. As such, the blood lily makes an attractive indoor plant, especially when in a container with other tropical plants or ferns.

Best Grown Indoors In Most Places - In the United States, the blood lily is successfully grown outdoors only in southern Florida, although a few other southern states have reported some success. In most of the United States this plant would have to be either grown in a container as an indoor plant, or taken in well before first frost. When the plant goes dormant in January or February, it prefers a hot dry environment. Letting the plant overwinter in a greenhouse or hothouse would be ideal in most locations.

A Toxic Plant - A controversial aspect of the blood lily is its toxicity. All members of the scadoxus genus are poisonous, particularly the roots and the seeds. Some reports indicate that fairly large quantities of the plant would have to be ingested to be dangerous, yet in Africa the toxic elements of the plant are used in poison arrow tips and to kill fish. Even it the toxic elements have been concentrated for these purposes, it would better to be safe than sorry, and take care if planted where children or pets are about and may decide to take a bite of the plant or its berries. In spite of this controversy, the plant is increasing in popularity, especially in places where it can be grown out of doors, such as Florida and Hawaii.

Culture - The blood lily, once established, does not like to be moved, and bulbs that are dug up and replanted generally do not perform well. A plant left undisturbed will bloom (once a year) for many years, and in fact can take a certain amount of abuse over that time. The plant can be propagated from seeds, although the seeds do not keep well so generally are not marketed. The preferred method of propagation is by planting bulblets. If a mature bulb is scored on the bottom, bulblets will eventually form, and these can be removed and replanted. You may get a plant that blooms the next year, or more often than not, in two years. When planted from seed it will be three years before the first bloom appears.

If you do decide to add a blood lily to your garden, or set one out in a container in the summer, be prepared to see a good number of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds during its blooming period. Hummingbirds especially are attracted to the plant, but experience varying degrees of difficulty in attempting to get by the spiky stamens to the nectar.

Check out the nursery catalogs or the Internet for photos of this unusual plant, and you'll no doubt be convinced that a blood lily would be a great addition to your home or garden.