Lycoris Radiata: The Mystical Red Spider Lily

Ed Wike
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Spider Lily Overview

A spider lily is a plant with large, ebony-colored leaves and bright-red, orchid-like flowers. Native to the Far East, an original spider lily was thought to have been discovered in Japan in the late eighteenth century.

Today, spider lilies are grown in clumps in the rice paddies of Japan, China, and Korea. They are valued as an ornamental plant because they are drought-resistant and relatively easy to grow.

A few general facts about this plant will help you care for it when it begins blooming for the first time.

If you want to grow a healthy plant, it is important to know what it needs. For example, the spider lily, or Lycoris as it is called in the botanical world, thrives in full sunlight. It functions best in sunny, hot, moist conditions.

Also keep in mind that spider lilies hunker down and cease growth during the fall months. They do not begin to grow again until summer approaches. During this dormant period, watch your plant closely and keep it out of the elements.

Lastly, when it comes time to care for the spider lily and the plant begins to fully blossom, enjoy your stunningly beautiful plant. It is gorgeous and a truly majestic way to bring color and life to your garden.

All About The Equinox Flower

It is a mesmerizing flower. This is largely due to the exaggeratedly large petals that surround the orange-red stamens.

These blossoms are the most prominent during the end of the autumn season. They develop their beautiful flower buds through the month of May and into June.

Early in the morning during the month of September, the Lycoris Radiata emerges as a rather plain looking, green flower. Over the course of the day, the flowers will continuously develop their petals.

The petals will lay rigid at first and then begin to curl inward. They remain curled for up to eight hours before blossoming fully.

Once the petals have completely opened, a sticky glue begins to be released from the flower. This glue is in order to attract insects. Small flies will become quickly entrapped by the glue.

Once the flies have been trapped, they will eventually drown in the flower’s nectar. The nectar has an eye-catching bright red color. This bright color draws even more insects to the flower.

Lycoris Radiata Care

If you are looking for a beautiful, easy to care for, drought tolerant, shade tolerant, colorful plant look no further then your local garden center. Ask for a Red Spider Lily, this plant is a semi-tropical, perennial plant. Lycoris radiata… has 4 to 6 inch oval, spidery red flowers that bloom September through October.

The USDA hardiness zones for this plant are: 8–11. This particular plant loves full sun. It is known to succeed in some frosty places as well. Some varieties will grow tall, reaching heights of 24 to 36 inches.

The care for red spider lilies is minimal. They can take the drought. However, they also like to have a steady moisture supply.

If you would like to have these lovely plants in your landscape, dig a small hole 6 to 8 inches deep. Add a layer of compost to the bottom of the hole. Place the plant where it is to bloom, pile the dirt up around the plant, and make a mound. The plant will grow into the mound and you will have beautiful flowers to enjoy.

Light & Temperature

Light requirements for the spider lily are so little that it is able to thrive in frozen wastelands. It also thrives in dark and gloomy ponds and forested areas.

Once seasonal temperatures have decreased below fifty degrees Fahrenheit, and the snow is a regular presence, the plant may develop foliage and flower buds.

If the plant is in a pot outdoors, it can be kept in a cold basement until the temperatures are right. If the plant is growing in the ground, then it is best to protect it during the winter and leave it outdoors.

If the plant has begun to develop foliage and flower buds, then it can be brought indoors if the temperature is kept between forty five and fifty five degrees Fahrenheit. It will take some time for the plant to acclimate to this temperature.

Once the spider lily has been indoors for more than two weeks the temperature can be dropped to between thirty five and twenty six degrees Fahrenheit. Eventually the plant will acclimate to the lower temperatures.

If the temperature is kept to this range, the spider lily may bloom every year.

Water & Humidity

The care for this plant is not difficult, but it does require a few things to be done correctly. First is humidity. Maintaining a humidity level of between 40%-60% is ideal. Second, watering schedule. The Red Spider Lily needs water every 7-10 days. The bottom of the plant should be watered until it shows no more uptake. The top of the plant should have water applied dribbled in between the new leaflets. The final requirement is fertilizing. It should be fertilized once a week with a liquid plant fertilizer. As the plant grows switch to a granular fertilizer that will be around for several months.


When you begin to shop for your lycoris, you will notice that a large of number of vendors will not ship bulbs to warmer climates. If you live in a subtropical or tropical climate, do not let this stop you from your lycoris dreams. These bulbs, like many that come from areas with cooler winters, are dormant during the winter season. The bulbs will go dormant and appear to be dead. However, this is all a normal part of the growing cycle for this particular plant. As long as you keep your bulbs in a consistently cool environment, ensure that they are dry and allow them to go dormant through the winter months, the bulbs will bloom for you.


  • The general rule is to not fertilize during the cold winter months. Also, never fertilize a lycoris or lily right after transplanting. Allow a few growth cycles to pass after planting before fertilizing.
  • During the spring/summer, when growth is commencing, a monthly application of water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks is sufficient. You may also supplement with a slow-release fertilizer every few waterings.
  • During the late summer/fall, fertilize once every two months. Also, make sure to give the plant a little boost of food during its floral stage. Spider lilies need food to produce flowers. You can use a liquid fertilizer, commercial flower food, or an all-purpose fertilizer.
  • During the winter, do not fertilize at all.


It is recommended that you repot Lycoris only every 3 to 6 years, and only do so if the plant’s roots are breaking up the the edge of the container.

To repot Lycoris, remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the existing medium from the root structure.

Once you have completed the cleaning process, begin to reshape the root system into a more compact form and put it back into the ceramic pot (or plastic container) that you will be using.

Then, fill the bottom with new potting mixture and make sure that the plant’s crown is situated at or below the top of the new potting mixture.

Finally, make sure that the top guard is in position to protect your plant from sun exposure.


Fortunately for those looking to grow another red spider lily, there are numerous ways to propagate them.

In fact, practical experience has shown that anything available to store the resulting generations will work regardless of the material.

Plastic, ceramic, terracotta, polyethylene, etc. all work fine so long as it is air and water tight.

The only stipulation is that it is easy enough to open to either allow the plantlets to be potted up or to remove and plant them.

Although special pots, specific-sized pots, and specific containers can be used, time and a little imagination will often provide suitable containers.

You will, of course, need to make sure to plant the cuttings in the container soon after they have been produced and that the container is filled with potting soil.

You should also select a potting mix that is suitable for the species you are propagating.

Use willow particles or any other sterile media that is of a similar consistency as the species requires.

In many cases if the roots aren't allowed to dry when being transported to the container and they are potted up as soon as possible, the plantlets will revive.

This is very useful as it enables the grower to grow out several generations of new seedlings much quicker, providing them with a ready supply to produce instantly.


It is widely believed that red spider lilies should be pruned. However, to truly enjoy your lilies, you might want to re-think this. There are several reasons why you should avoid cutting. The first reason is that you will lose several flowers. Spider lilies have a pretty long bloom time. After all, each bloom only stays in bloom for about 1.5–2 weeks. So those flowers will already be gone. Also, pruning can disturb flower buds that are just about to bloom.

The best way to enjoy your spider lilies is to make sure that you plant them in the right place. They need a lot of sunlight. You should avoid placing them in a shaded spot. If they get enough sunlight and nutrients, they will naturally bloom better.

Also, avoid planting them in a place that gets too much moisture. Water must drain away properly. So avoid planting them in places that are constantly wet, but also avoid planting them in a place that they don’t drain away to.

You can love your red spider lily by making sure that you don’t prune them. If you buy those lilies, you will find it easy to keep them alive.


Growing Problems

L. radiata is well-suited to containers and in climates that get neither scorching nor freezing. However, this plant is almost impossible to get to rebloom indoors. It requires being outdoors in the summer for flowering.

And even if you are in a frost-free climate, the chilling period can cause serious problems. There are other popular red spider lilies that do not require a chilling period if you live in these frost-free zones or live in warm enough regions to flower year-round.

In colder zones and zones with a short summertime growing season, you won’t be able to grow the plant outdoors except during the warmer months.

As luck would have it, the same chilly temperatures that are required to bring about the beautiful and glorious red spider lily will also cause it to go dormant.

To beat the odds and bring back the lovely red spider lily, follow these instructions.


The Lycoris radiata is a popular choice among gardeners because it is easy to grow. It is not, however, immune to pests. You might notice some bugs or insects in your Spider Lily, or you may notice problems with the flowers themselves.

For instance, your Lily's flowers may be streaked and discolored, or they may have spots. This is usually because your plant has been bothered by bacteria of fungus. You can treat this issue with a spray concentrate and by cutting away the infected petals.

In another instance, you may notice holes in the petals. This may be caused by a beetle that is looking for a place to lay its eggs. In this case, you may want to protect your plant by putting it in a cup or pot that you will move to another location during daylight. Eggs will not develop properly in sunlight.

You may also notice that eggs have been laid in your plant and that the petals are partially eaten away. In this case, you will want to remove any infected petals as soon as you see them.


The Lycoris is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. It falls into within the same sub-family (the Lycorideae) as does the genus Allium, which includes the onion. It is a tuberous rooted perennial. The Lycoris is a bulb plant and is first dormant, then a rosette, and lastly an inflorescence. It is a very poisonous, but a very beautiful plant. Some gardeners are fond of this plant because it stays in bloom for 2-3 months.

The most outstanding characteristic of the Lycoris is its red-violet flowers having a yellow stripe right down the middle. They are about 2-5 inches across. The flowers are cup shaped. The plant is liked for its flowers being tightly compacted and like small trumpets. The leaves are strap shaped and are green with wavy margins. The leaves die out by mid autumn.

Lycoris Radiata is one of the three most spectacular, most outstanding varieties that exist today among the popular species within the Lycoris family.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions asked about the red spider lily plant…

What is Lycoris Radiata commonly called? Variety names of Lycoris radiata include:

Variety names of Lycoris radiata include: Red spider lily

Japanese Spider Lily

The Japanese spider lily is one of the most popular varieties of the Red spider lily’s and varieties range from single-tipped petals to double-tipped petals.

How do you care for Lycoris Radiata? Spider lilies are very easy to care for as long as they are kept in direct sun and watered regularly; you may want to use a soaker hoe for this. They will grow in average to rich, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil with a preference for a semi-acidic PH.