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Bring Magic Into Your Garden With Resurrection Lily

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Lycoris squamigera Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Lycoris squamigera
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

A plant that goes by the names of resurrection lily, magic lily and even the surprise lily is enough to make gardeners stop in their tracks. Those who grow this plant may know it by another, yet non-flashy, name – Lycoris squamigera.

L. squamigera is a late summer flowering bulb. The foliage emerges every spring, but then dies back by the beginning of summer. At this point, gardeners may assume it has died, but this is where the magic or the surprise lies. What actually occurs is that it goes into a brief dormancy period. After this brief dormancy, which lasts for a few weeks, two-inch flower stalks emerge from what seems like barren ground. Within four days from first emerging, these flower stalks will bear anywhere from four to seven nodding, 3-inch, rose-pink flowers.

L. squamigera is one of the preferred Lycoris species to grow due to its wide growing range. It is the most cold hardy of the Lycoris species. Not only that, but it also grows well in various soil types. This plant thrives in full sun or partial shade, though its flowers perform best in full sun. L. squamigera is attractive in borders and containers. It does well in an open woodland garden where its messy, late spring foliage is not a problem.

Lycoris squamigera Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Lycoris squamigera
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

The resurrection lily is a low maintenance plant, making it a joy for gardeners. Insects and diseases pose no problems and the plant does not require a lot of watering. Due to its brief dormancy period in late summer, it does just fine in the hot weather. Plant L. squamigera bulbs about 6 inches deep in the fall. They will gradually spread over time. Neighbors will be sure to line up to get their hands on this exciting gem of a plant.

Check out this and other species in the genusLycoris at the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University in Raleigh. They all seem to behave similarly with that quirky transient attitude, so you have to be quick. Lycoris aurea is a lovely golden yellow and L. radiatav. radiata has striking scarlet flowers displayed like spidery clusters. Learn more at

Ben Dungan