Backyard Nature Wednesday: Oxblood lilies

It's oxblood lily time once again. When school starts in the late summer, we start looking for these magic lilies that soon pop out of the ground with colorful blossoms. A common name for the plants is "schoolhouse lilies," a nod to their time of bloom. The traditional color of oxblood lilies is bright red. 

But there is also a fuchsia pink variety. I have both in my garden.

Oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are close relatives of spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) and rain lilies (Zephranthes) all of which have similar life histories. They produce most of their foliage during winter and spring and then go dormant during the heat of summer. As summer begins to wane and, typically, the fall rains begin, they pop out of the ground once again and begin their bloom. 
During the plant's dormant period during summer, they need little or no water. In fact, artificial watering during this time can actually harm them, but the late summer/early fall rains give them the signal that it is time to grace our world with their beauty once again.

Oxblood lilies, as well as their close relatives, are easy to grow in our area. Although they are not native plants (oxbloods were introduced from Argentina), they are easily naturalized. Their numbers increase through the years and they produce more and more flowers, making them very popular with lazy gardeners like me!


  1. I said to myself "how pretty, and I never heard of them". Zone 7 to 10, no wonder. Ah well. I won't even attempt this one in my zone 5b upstate NY garden - I draw the line at my one "hardy" camilla which we are going to try to overwinter. Alana

    1. Yeah, these would not be for you, I'm afraid, but I'm sure there are others just as pretty that would be happy in zone 5b. Good luck with the camellia.

  2. Pretty flowers. I prefer the red ones; they look dramatic.

    1. I agree. In fact, when I first bought the bulbs, I thought I was just buying the red ones. Imagine my surprise when the pink ones showed up, too.


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