Rebecca Stoner Kirts
Oh LA LA There are” Naked Ladies” in my Yard
“Only in Kentucky”
We bought the house we currently live in 20 plus years ago in the early spring. When we moved in I was so thrilled to see all the spring bulbs popping up everywhere. There were patches of daffodils, snowdrops, and hyacinths in many different spots. Plus in the out buildings I found many empty boxes from Brecks, Springhill and more. All this gave me hope of what the spring and summer would behold. I was not disappointed when the first bulbs appeared. Although the plantings were randomly planted, the plants were just waiting for me to move them to the right spot.
However one bulb had me stumped. Late spring I had strap-like, greenish, gray leaves up to 12 inches long and 1 inch wide in groups all over the yard. As early summer arrived and the leaves died off, I was very tempted to dig them up and throw them out. Luckily, I ran out of time doing more pressing garden projects, and let them grow. Then in the late summer, I noticed arrow like spears shooting out of the ground. Each sheath would grow about 2 feet tall, and would open into 5 to 7 funnel shaped rose tinted pink blooms. What a surprise!
After doing some research, which mainly consisted of asking garden friends, neighbors, and reading blogs, I discovered that they were Lycoris squamigera. This is a plant with many aliases including Naked Ladies, Resurrection Lilies, Magic Lilies or Surprise Lilies. I love the variety of names. You may know them by a different name. If so please pass it on!!
Here are a couple words of advice I have learned about this very unusual plant. This may be the only bulb I know that needs a warning label.
#1) If you have an obsessed mower, like my husband, you must watch for the arrival of the stems emerging from the ground or they may be mowed down. I have slowly transplanted my” Naked Ladies” to flower beds. However, I bet if you let your husband know being careful and not mowing in certain area will result in a group of “Naked Ladies” appearing, he will greatly improve his mowing game!
#2) Be careful where you talk about your Surprise Lilies! I heard a story about a
man who was going to his choir practice at church. He began to talk about the fact that he
had several” Naked Ladies” in his front yard. The Music Director looked at him and said something to the effect: if this is true, then why in the heck are you here?
#3) Practice self discipline when weeding in the spring. No one has ever needed to warn me about this, as I have a long history of leaving “unknown” fast growing “plants” way too long only to discover I have nurtured a weed. If you get frustrated with the lack of flowers and discard the bulb, you will miss the big show.
#4) “Naked Ladies” do need to be transplanted and shared or replanted every so often. I read a blog email from a person who was complaining that he had too many “Naked Ladies” in his front yard. Perhaps this is why this plant was included in Steve Bender and Felder Rushing’s great book. Passalong Plants. However, do beware, as Felder Rushing mentions Lycoris, may skip a couple years before blooming when they are messed with. I loved his comment about the transplanting problem, “You really can’t complain about all if this. It’s just the price you pay for disturbing Naked Ladies.” (Felder Rushing Passalong Plants.
So all jokes aside, I am thrilled that one of the previous owner’s of my house, felt the urge to plant this wonderful bulb. Previous owners include a missionary/ retired author, a psychiatrist, (who is probably responsible for the cage in my attic) and an owner of a fertilizer company who was looking to build a retreat far from the big city (Louisville) This owner had connections to the bourbon industry in Kentucky. Or perhaps they might have been planted by the owners of the original house on the property that burned. I just don’t know who is responsible for planting them. And even if I did, would they admit to wanting hundreds of “Naked Ladies” in the yard??