July Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Surprise Lily, Lycoris Squamigera

A late-blooming flower you'll probably see only in the South is the old-fashioned favorite, Lycoris.

Lycoris squamigera in July
Lycoris squamigera, is usually referred to as Surprise Lily, but a funny common name for this plant is Naked Ladies. Surprise Lilies blossom in the middle of summer, usually sometime after the 4th of July. The bulb lies dormant a good portion of the year, and then suddenly surprises us by sending up a naked flower stalk up to 2 feet tall, topped with very fragrant pink trumpet-like flowers that look somewhat like a cluster of amaryllis. It is in the amaryllis family. Leaves do not emerge until the flower stalk has faded. The trait of having a flower stalk with no foliage at the bottom is the reason for the amusing common name "Naked Ladies." Leaves are strappy medium green leaves like you'd expect from a lily, but by early Fall they turn yellow and disappear again.

Probably because it grows from a bulb, Lycoris squamigera is very easy to grow. Growing equally well in sun or shade, Lycoris is very versatile and is at home in any southern garden. However, you can grow this one even if you live in a colder climate, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. Squamigera is the most cold hardy of all Lycoris.

Surprise Lily is not picky about soil. Whether you have clay or sand or even the very rare "good soil," Lyoris squamigera will thrive and multiply. It doesn't even matter if your soil is acid or alkaline.

Lycoris squamigera will appreciate regular water during the growing season, but it's just not necessary. And once it goes dormant and the foliage has disappeared, it needs no water at all.

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