Many people are familiar with bulbs that send up spikes of pink flowers in the fall without any sign of leaves. These are known variously as "surprise lilies", "naked ladies", "magic lilies", and "resurrection lilies" because of the sudden way they emerge from bare earth.
There are two different and common species of bulb that do this. They are often confused, with incorrect photographs, even in nursery catalogs and official-seeming Web pages. Both are in the Amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae. The two species are Amaryllis belladonna and Lycoris squamigera.
The two species come from very different parts of the world with very different climates. Each is very easy to grow in the right place. Large to enormous clumps of both kinds of bulb can be found in older gardens. However, due to their climate requirements, gardeners who succeed with one species will not be able to grow the other; so, if "surprise lilies" grow near you, they will almost certainly be just one of these, and not both. You can read more about climates in our Climate section.
Our Wiki has more photos of each species on the linked pages.
|Notice the six petals are equally spaced around the flower. Photo by Mary Sue Ittner. Click on the image to enlarge.||The main point||Notice the six petals are unequally spaced around the flower, with a noticeable gap between the bottom two petals. Photo by Jay Yourch. Click on the image to enlarge.|
|Six, equally spaced around flower||Petals||Six, unequally spaced around flower, with a gap at the bottom.|
|Light pink, darker pink, white. Not even a hint of blue.||Flower color||Pink with yellow throat. A hint of blue at petal tips.|
|Six, somewhat spreading.||Stamens||Six, held closely to the pistil.|
|One, central, curves down and then up. White to light pink.||Pistil||One, central, curves down and then up. Dark pink.|
|Large, fleshy, often produced.||Seeds||Does not produce seeds. Thought to be derived from a sterile hybrid.|
|Shiny, fresh green, slightly V-shaped in cross-section. Tips pointed.||Leaves||Matte/dull surface, not shiny, greyish green, flat, strap shaped. Tips rounded.|
|Golf ball to tennis ball size, covered in many soft, thin, brown sheaths that tear into long, silky white strings, as is common with its African relatives.||Bulb||Golf ball to tennis ball size, covered in a dry brown sheath, much like a daffodil.|
|South Africa: Winter-rainfall areas.||Origin||China.|
|Mediterranean: Mild winters with plentiful rain and only mild frost. Long, rainless and hot summers.||Climate||Continental: Cold winters, moderate summers with plenty of summer rain.|
|USDA zone 7.||Hardiness||USDA zone 5.|