Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Plant a Surprise Lily

A Surprise Lily (Lycoris species) sends up a leafless stem with pink or red flowers in August or September, usually after a heavy rain. Since the foliage appears after the blooms, Surprise Lilies are also called Naked Ladies. Other common names include Spider Lily, Magic Lily and Resurrection Lily, as well as Hurricane Lily, which refers to the fact it blooms during hurricane season. Surprise Lilies are popular pass-along plants--you can often get bulbs from other gardeners who need to thin their patch out. If the bulbs are actively growing, they can be planted anytime. Dormant bulbs should be planted in late summer or fall.

Buy dormant bulbs from a reliable local or online source. See Resources for some online suppliers. Keep bulbs in a cool dry place until you are ready to plant them. Actively growing bulbs should be planted immediately.

Choose a place with rich moist soil in a partial shade to full sun. Use a trowel to dig a hole two to three inches deeper than the bulb is tall for each bulb. Space the holes three to four inches apart.

Set a bulb upright in a hole with its neck just below the surface of the soil. Push the soil into the hole around the bulb and press down firmly. If the bulb is actively growing, do not mound the soil up around the foliage.

Water thoroughly with a water hose or watering can.

Transplant A Surprise Lily

Cultivate the soil about 8 inches deep in a location that receives full sun. Remove the bulbs from the current soil bed. They can be planted anywhere between 1 to 6 inches deep. Simply pull them apart with your hands. The littlest bulbs may not bloom for a year or two, so plant them in starter garden or near the back of the garden, if desired. Gently pack the soil on top of the bulbs and water with 1 inch of water.


Divide crowded patches of Surprise Lilies in the early summer while they are dormant.


Surprise Lilies are toxic and can cause nausea and diarrhea. Ingesting a large amount could result in convulsions and possible death.

Garden Guides