Resurrection Lily

The Magical, Mystical, And Unpredictable Resurrection Lily

The Resurrection lily seems to be one of the free spirits of the plant world. As one gardener put it, "it grows where it wants, blooms when it wants, and doesn't bloom if it so chooses". Gathering information from standard botanical sources on this plant is not much different that gathering information for any other plant. It's when you wade through a collection of comments from those who have this lily in their garden or yard, that you begin to appreciate what the name, Resurrection lily, really means.

Plant Facts - The Resurrection lily goes by a couple of other meaningful names as well, Surprise lily, Magic lily, and Naked Lady lily. You'll see why as we go along. This lily is a member of the Amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae, and has the botanical name Lycoris squamigera. It is a somewhat late flowering bulb, featuring clusters of blooms which are 2 to 3 inches across, pink to magenta in color, with golden throats and russet anthers. This is a very showy plant, and often brings the last vestige of bright color to a garden as the growing season ends.

The Resurrection lily grows in most areas of the United States (USDA Zones 5 though 11) and over winters in states where the some extremely cold weather is commonplace. In some areas they grow wild, and in many places will be found growing near abandoned houses, or on long abandoned properties. The blooming habits of the plant gives rise to the names by which it is called. Typically, new foliage will sprout in late spring or early summer, just as is the case with many other late flowering bulbs. The foliage, which can become rather lush, will eventually die back, without any sign of a bloom. Weeks, and even months, may pass, long enough for the “disappointing” plant to have been forgotten. Then, seemingly overnight, a thin stalk emerges from the ground, and within a few days it is covered with lovely, lily-shaped blossoms.

The Names Fit - The fact that the flower emerges from seemingly long dead foliage of course leads to the name, Resurrection lily, and the fact that one tends to forget the plant is even where it's at when the bloom suddenly appears, justifies the names Surprise Lily and Magic Lily. The name Naked Lady Lily is attributed to the long, somewhat pinkish stalk, which stands naked, neither covered nor protected by foliage.

Strange Patterns - Those who plant this lily in their gardens are almost always surprised at first by its unusual blooming pattern. In addition, the plant can be very unpredictable in its growth. Some of this is no doubt due to conditions of sunlight, shade, soil, or watering, but it really seems that each plant has a mind or personality of its own, blooming where it wants, when it wants. Some gardeners have planted bulbs only to see no sign of anything for a year, or two years, or even three years. Then suddenly foliage emerges, dies back, and some weeks later the blossoms appear. Other gardeners report that their lilies only produce foliage one year, and only produce blooms the next, alternating from one year to the next. Some years they don't show up at all.

The Resurrection lily, if left to its own devices, will often naturalize, with a few bulbs becoming a hundred or more plants after only a few years. The plant can even be somewhat invasive, rare for a bulb, though few seem to mind, given their absolute beauty when in bloom. The plant takes well to division, but the seeds are sterile. Aside from parts of the plant being toxic, the only complaint you are apt to hear is that "they didn't bloom this year", just what you might like to have in your garden, if you like things that aren't that predictable.