The Garden Muse: A look at the spider lily

Published 10:08 am Friday, October 6, 2023

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the Garden Muse

Dawn Conrad

I have had a few people ask me about the Red Spider Lily this year. Usually due to them coming across a stand of them while walking or exploring a new area of interest.

Spider Lily is but one of many common names for several perennial plant species within the Amaryllidaceae family. Hurricane lily and naked ladies are two other popular common names used in the US. Several other species exist of the genus Crinum, Hymenocallis, Lycoris, and Nerine. The red spider lily (Licoris) was often associated within the family Liliaceae in the past.

Spider lilies can be found in many colors. The Red spider lily Licoris radiata being the most popular, they can also be found in White, yellow, pink, coral, and orange depending on the species.

Captain William Roberts an amateur botanist brought the first spider lily bulbs to the United States from Japan in 1854. Since then, they are found mostly in the southeast states.

Red spider lilies are closely associated with memories of last goodbyes and death of loved ones. This association most likely carried over from Japan where they believed that if you met someone that you would never see again, spider lilies would grow along the path that you took together. In contrast pink spider lilies are associated with love, passion, and beauty.

Spider lilies are curious plants indeed. Once they have broken ground in the spring, their leaves die back, and the flowers appear a month or two later in late summer/early fall depending on the variety. The spider lily usually will not bloom the first fall after planting.

Spider lilies are a great plant for attracting pollinators to the garden, especially bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Keep children and pets away from all spider lilies! All parts of the spider lily plant contain lycorine which if ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and death.

Dawn Conrad is a Retired Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbalist, Writer and Artist. She can be contacted at