Surprise Lilies - Knowledgebase Question

Name: Elaine Brayton
Davenport, IA
Avatar for braytonelain
Question by braytonelain
January 10, 2000
I have some lillies in my flower garden that someone told me are surprise lillies. They look like an ammarylis in that they come up with green leaves and then die down, and if they decide to bloom, single stems come up with delicate pinkish/coral blossoms on them. Some years all that comes up is the green leaves and other years, the single stem comes up and it blooms. Incidentally, I lived here for 5 years before anything came up. Do you know why they bloom some years and not others?

Answer from NGA
January 10, 2000
These bulbs (Lycoris squamigera) are known to be somewhat temperamental, especially in colder areas. They are reliably hardy in zone 6 given a good snow cover, and far less hardy in colder regions, so they may have been winter-stressed. For reliable bloom, it is important to allow the foliage to grow and ripen to replenish the bulb every spring. Since the leaves are large this can be a bit unsightly, but it is critical to the plants' growth and health. It is also a good idea to mark the bed where they grow so you do not inadvertently disturb them during the rest of the year, and to remind you to mulch them every winter. Finally, in my experience, it can take these bulbs years to settle in and establish themselves, and if you disturb their roots installing other plants, they often refuse bloom for several years after. There is some comfort in the fact that once established they seem to persist forever. Enjoy the blooms when they happen!

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