Fall Blooming Perennial Bulbs for Central Texas

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com

Red spider lily and oxblood are two of the best bulbs for Texas heat. In late summer, these bulbs bloom suddenly when there is a slight dip in temperature. Why plant these bulbs in your central Texas garden? They are dependable, perennial fall bulbs that add color to heat-stressed landscapes.  

These bulbs have a lot in common, including the name schoolhouse lily. Both bloom typically around Labor Day, near the time that the school year begins. They are members of the amaryllis family and are considered heirloom plants because they have naturalized in the South.  

Both these late-summer to fall blooming bulbs are drought-tolerant, pest-resistant and thrive in almost any non-soggy soil. They bloom and grow at a time when color is a welcome sight in Texas gardens. The foliage emerges after flowering, growing through the winter until spring. The bulbs then go dormant in summer.  

What is a perennialized or naturalized bulb? Once planted, the bulb blooms and comes back year after year to bloom. Typically, these bulbs multiply and every few years may be divided and transplanted into the garden.  

Oxblood lily – Rhodophiala bifida

After late-summer rains, the oxblood lily sprouts almost overnight. Measuring 10 to 14 inches, each stalk is topped with a cluster of up to six brilliant red, trumpet-shaped blooms. Oxbloods thrive in full sun or light shade. Long, bright-green leaves emerge after flowering and persist through winter, then yellow and die in spring. 

Red spider lily – Lycoris radiata

Grown often in Southern gardens under deciduous trees, the red spider lily will bloom suddenly, often in September. Leafless stalks 18 to 20 inches tall are topped with multiple, coral-red flowers. The stamens, or pollen-bearing structures of the flowers, are exceptionally long, giving the blooms a spider-like appearance. Elegant clusters of flowers last about two weeks and longer if they are protected from wind and sun.


When and how to plant these fall blooming bulbs

Plant both these fall blooming bulbs in July and August. Oxblood lilies may be divided and transplanted almost any time of year or leave them to naturalize, undivided for years. Plant the bulbs at a depth about 3 times the height and water a few times for a couple of weeks. Golf ball sized bulbs may bloom the first year after dividing, but smaller bulbs may need a year’s growth before flowering. For bulb planting with no bending over, this is the best and easiest bulb planting tool

The red spider lily bulb can be planted in rich soil, amended with compost. Only 2 inches or so of soil is adequate to cover the bulb. Divide and transplant this bulb in spring, after foliage has matured and before it begins to yellow and fade. Mass plant spider lilies in groups or in beds of ground cover where it gets 6 hours of winter sun.

The spider lily makes an excellent cut flower. After blooming, long straplike leaves emerge, that persist through winter and die down in spring. Like oxblood lilies, spider lilies require little or no water when dormant.

Perennial bulbs in central Texas

The oxblood lily was introduced to Texas from Argentina sometime after 1865. Red spider lily has been cultivated since ancient times in Asia. It was introduced to the United States in the early 1800s. Grown by early Texas settlers, these two garden bulbs make great additions to modern day gardens.

Both these bulbs may be scarce at garden centers, but are worth locating to have garden flowers in bloom in the fall. Check with your local nursery to see if they offer them. If not, a reliable Texas source is The Southern Bulb Company. Check their website for availability.

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