Lycoris is an eastern Asian genus from the Amaryllidaceae family and they superficially resemble the South African genus Nerine and are sometimes confused with it in the horticultural trade.
Various Lycoris species have been grown as ornamental plants in China and Japan for many centuries, and have been hybridised and selected during that time. Much of the work on their taxonomy has been done in these countries, and accurate information has been hard to find in western gardening literature. Very few of these species are cultivated in Australian gardens, and the two most commonly available species are Lycoris aurea (yellow) and L. radiata (red).
Lycoris seeds are often hard to germinate and the seedlings can take between 6-12 years to reach flowering size. Usually these plants are propagated vegetatively and the plants on offer at most nurseries are one clone and generally will not set seed.
Lycoris aurea and Lycoris radiate are both winter growing bulbs that are dormant in summer. These are great garden plants that grow well in partly shaded situations amongst trees and shrubs, but they are equally at home grown in pots. When grown in pots they will want very little water in summer until they begin to flower in autumn.
Lycoris bulbs can be purchased from most bulbs nurseries at a reasonable price.
In Australia Lycoris radiata and Lycoris aurea can be found at Garden Express mail order nursery in Victoria.
Botanical Description –
L. aurea (L'Hérit.)Herbert var. aurea [L. africana (Lam.)M.J.Roem.] Called in Mandarin hu di xiao, literally meaning "suddenly the earth smiles". Leaves appearing in autumn in the commonly cultivated forms; 30-60 cm long, 15-24 mm wide, glaucous, somewhat fleshy; apex acute. Scape 30-60 cm tall. Flowers 4-7 per umbel. Perianth trumpet-shaped, yellow; tube 12-15 mm long. Tepals 5-6 cm long, recurved, often with pale green central streak; margins undulate. Stamens hardly exceeding tepals. Range extends from Japan south to Burma and Vietnam; includes two chromosomal varieties with 2n = 14 or 16 (Liu & Hsu, 1989).
L. radiata (L'Hérit.)Herbert var. radiata [L. josephinae Traub] Leaves appearing in autumn, 7-15 cm long, 4-7 mm wide, obtuse. Scape 25-35 cm long. Flowers 4-7 per umbel. Perianth irregular, red, to 4 cm long. Perianth tube very short, green. Tepals c. 3 cm long, strongly recurved; undulate. Stamens twice length of tepals. Sterile triploid, an ancient cultigen widespread in China, Japan and other temperate countries.
Common names: Lycoris, Spider Lily
Botanical name: Lycoris radiata, Lycoris aurea
Family name: Amaryllidaceae
Plant type: Bulb
Size: 25cm wide x 60cm high
Planting time: Late spring to summer
Planting width: 15cm.
Planting depth: Neck just above surface.
Flowering: Late summer to autumn
Positioning: Full sun though some protection from intense sun is recommended.
Soil: Moist (when active), well-drained.
Watering: Watering is required only to supplement natural rainfall. Lycoris will thrive with dry spring and summer conditions.
Fertilising: Apply general purpose slow release fertiliser during the growing season.
Pruning: Cut off any spent flowers unless you want to obtain seed.
Lifting & dividing: Bulbs like to be crowded but may require dividing after about 5 years to prevent overcrowding.If dividing clumps or transplanting, ideally complete this in early spring.
General information: Lycoris perform better when crowded. The strap-like leaves appear after the flowers emerge.
Tips: Watering in Autumn can promote flowering if rains are delayed. Plant amongst low growing plants to help hide leaves as they die down.
Preferred climate zones: Cool, Temperate, Arid, Semi-arid