How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Red Spider Lily

While it has dramatic names like flower of the afterlife, the red spider lily is far from scary. Kevin Espiritu explains how to grow and care for this gorgeous perennial bulb.

How to grow red spider lily


Red spider lily (Lycoris radiata) has a bit of an ominous reputation.

In Japan, it is called the flower of the afterlife, planted at the tombs of ancestors to help guide a soul into their next incarnation. Spooky stories abound.

So too do the myriad of names it’s known by. Called red magic lily, corpse flower, resurrection lily, equinox flower, and more, it’s a stunning beauty. In the late summer or early autumn, it produces perfect blooms after a spell of heavy rainfall, earning it the name hurricane lily too.

This special and vibrant flower, tinged with lore, is well worth its place in your garden. Plant them once and enjoy their beauty season after season.


Red Spider Lily
Plant Type Bulb
Family Amaryllidaceae
Genus Lycoris
Species Lycoris radiata
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height 1-2′
Watering Requirements Moderate
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Rich, well-draining

What is Red Spider Lily?

Several tall, bright red flowers clustered together in the forest, with a beam of light peaking through the trees. The flowers have long green stems with long, spider like, red, petals spraying out from the center of the flower.
These beauties were originally used to keep mice out of the Japanese rice paddies.

Lycoris radiata is native to eastern Asia, particularly China, Japan, Korea, and Nepal. In Japan, the flowers were planted around the exterior of rice paddies or homes to keep mice at bay. The bulbs are poisonous, stopping pests from encroaching.

The perennial red spider lily sends up flowers before its leaves fully unfurl. During its bloom time in late summer, long flower stalks appear first. These produce umbels of four to six flowers, each one about two inches across. Their long stamens are visually reminiscent of spider legs, giving the plants their spidery name.

Once in full flower, the bloom lasts for about two weeks. The flower color shifts over time, changing from deep red to a lighter pink. As flowering subsides, the plant grows more leaves to soak up the sunlight. It remains green and leafy throughout the winter, fading in the spring once it has stored enough energy to keep the bulb alive through summer.


A gloved hand holding a red, flower bulb, getting ready to plant it into a hole in the dirt.
Plant your Spider Lily bulbs in an area that receives full sun and well-drained soil.

To plant red spider lily bulbs, start by choosing a location with full sun and well-draining soil. They can tolerate partial shade but perform better with at least six hours of direct light.

Dig a hole about six inches deep and place the bulbs in the hole with the pointed end facing upward. Don’t plant upside down, or the stem won’t emerge from the soil. Space the bulbs about eight inches apart if you’re planting multiple bulbs at once.

Cover the bulbs with soil and water the area thoroughly after planting to encourage root growth. Throughout the growing season, water the bulbs regularly, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

If you’re planting in containers, choose a deep pot to accommodate the large root system. While they don’t mind being confined, the plants will perform better with room to grow.

How To Grow

Clusters of tall red, spider like flowers surrounding the base of a mossy tree in a forest.
Red Spider Lilies are fairly low maintenance and easy to care for.

These plants are not demanding. Left undisturbed after planting, your red spider lily will grow surprisingly well. Like most bulbing plants, it doesn’t like being moved, so choose your planting location carefully. After that, follow these easy steps to keep them happy.


Close up of a bright red flower with long, skinny, spider like, petals.
These flowers will need around 6 hours of direct sun to reach their full potential.

The Lycoris genus is made up of full sun plants, and this species is no different. These plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight for the best flowering. They can tolerate partial shade, but won’t flower as well.

If you don’t have the ideal position, try planting in containers. You can easily move the pot as needed to make the most of the available sunlight throughout the year.

When planting, ensure the neck of the bulb is above the soil’s surface. It won’t flower properly if it’s completely buried.


Close up of a bright red flower with long, skinny, spider like, petals covered in tiny drops of water.
Spider Lilies don’t require a lot of water.

Moderate moisture during the growing season from late summer and into fall is essential for your red spider lily. When it is dormant during the summer months, drier soil will protect the bulb from rot.

Overwatering is major a concern for these bulbs. As the red spider lily puts down deep roots, it has access to deeper water reserves in the soil. Check the soil moisture before watering and only water when the soil is dry to limit risk.

Gardeners believe Lycoris radiata won’t begin to flower until after the first good rain in fall. Home gardeners can simulate that by watering lightly once the weather starts to change.


Mounds of fresh, dark, soil in a garden bed.
Use well-draining soil, rich in nutrients to give these flowers their best life.

The soil in the planting location should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. If you don’t have the right soil, amend with compost before planting or plant in containers. Soil pH is not a huge concern for these garden plants.

Temperature & Humidity

A field of grass with several clusters of tall green stems with red, spider like flowers, and foggy mountains in the foreground.
Spider Lilies will thrive best in Zones 6-10.

Tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, red spider lily grows best in USDA Zones 6-10. They can also handle most humidity levels, but there is a higher risk of fungal disease in high-humidity regions.

Those in colder areas should provide protection for their plants through the winter. Cover the leaves with row covers or frost protection fabric in winter to limit damage, ensuring they have enough energy to flower again the following season.


Close up of a blue, gloved, hand holding a pile of tiny, white fertilizer pebbles, and sprinkling them onto some flowers.
You will only need to fertilize your Spider Lilies about twice a year.

While no fertilizer in required in optimal soils, you can fertilize twice a year: once in spring and again in fall.

In early spring, apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer to allow the plant to store nutrients to regrow after summer dormancy.

A post-flowering fall fertilizing is also helpful. Switch to a high potassium and phosphorous fertilizer. This strengthens the bulb and prepares it for winter conditions.


Row of tall, bright red flowers lining a sidewalk and separated by a wood posts and a rope stretching between each post.
Once your Spider Lilies are established try not to disturb them.

Once planted in a garden bed or container, red spider lilies don’t like to be disturbed. Select a larger, deeper pot to begin with so that you don’t have to move it, or plant it in a permanent garden bed.

If you do have to move yours for any reason, it will likely flower poorly during the next blooming season.

Other than removing spent flower stalks once the leaves form, Lycoris radiata is low-maintenance. No pruning is necessary.


Forest floor covered in tall, red, flowers growing in between and at the base of each tree.
Propagating your Spider Lilies can be easily done by division.

Over time, red spider lilies form dense colonies. If you want to spread your plant to another part of the garden or grow in containers, you can lift and divide the clumps for replanting.

Start dividing in temperate seasons when the bulbs are dormant. Loosen the soil around the clump, digging deep into the soil to reach the extensive root system. Lift the bulbs and split them into sections by pulling them apart. Follow the planting instructions above to plant in the same spot with better spacing or in a new location.

If you finish planting in late summer, your bulbs won’t flower that fall. They need a season to establish strong roots before they begin flowering again.

Common Problems

Close up of a dried, shriveled, red, spider like flower with a butterfly perched on top.
These flowers have very few issues with pests but can suffer from root rot.

Not only are spider lilies easy to care for in the garden, but they’re the perfect fall flower. They don’t encounter many pests and diseases, and growing problems are rare.

Container-grown red spider lily plants need a deep container. If they don’t have room for their roots to stretch out, they may not flower. Provide the perfect pot by picking one larger than average.

The only other concerns are rot and narcissus bulb fly. Plant in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering to limit the risk of rot. Keep your garden clear of decaying leaves and debris to prevent larval feeding by the bulb fly.


Is my spider lily plant poisonous?

Yes, their bulbs are considered toxic. In humans, they can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, excessive salivation, and diarrhea.

When will my red spider lily bloom?

Red spider lilies bloom in late summer or early fall.

Final Thoughts

Intricate red spider lilies are something to look forward to every fall. After planting, they won’t require much attention to thrive in your garden.

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