School House Lilies
by Carol Siddall, Master Gardener
This bulb is also known as Oxblood, Hurricane, and Red Spider Lilies. It is in the Amaryllis plant family, and it is native to Japan. You sometimes see them sold in nurseries across Texas and they can be ordered from out of state nurseries, or you can try talking your friends into sharing some of their bulbs! They are one of my favorite bulbs to plant. They are unusual from other bulbs as the flower appears first. It is such a treat to look out one morning in fall and see that beautiful red bloom showing. (My experience has been that they do not bloom every year. Probably depends on how much rain we get and when it falls.) The dark green leaves follow the bloom and last all winter. The leaves then go dormant until late summer when summer rains trigger their fall show. Watch you don't over water during dormancy as this could cause harm to the bulbs.
These lilies do best when they can grow undisturbed for many years. They are adapted to both sandy and clay soils, acid or alkaline. They do well in well draining soils and under the shade of large trees. They can coexist in the lawn with turf if you avoid mowing while they are flowering and maturing their foliage. Plant these lilies so the top of each bulb neck is right at or just above the surface of the soil. Their summer height in bloom is 15 to 16 inches. They are quite striking when planted in mass as in the accompanied picture.
Greg Grant states in "Heirloom Gardening in the South", that a German plantsman Peter Oberwetter is credited with introducing these bulbs to Texans around 1900. It has the reputation of being a true southern bulb as it is more commonly seen in the south. It is such a hardy bulb that it frequently marks locations where old farm houses stood, marking their walkways, and even circular plantings around trees that are long gone. You can also find them in old cemeteries. They are true survivors, hardy to their core.
If you haven't tried these lilies before, give them a try. You won't be disappointed when you see that striking bloom in all its glory!