Red Spider Lily 101: A Complete Guide To Caring For These Beauties

Last Updated August 10, 2023 By Bella Zinti

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The red spider lily possesses remarkably captivating blossoms. With their long stamens and delicate filaments, these flowers sometimes resemble spider legs, which inspired its common name. Adding these stunning spider lilies to your landscape or home garden enhances its beauty, but their true allure shines when they grow together in dense clusters.

Beyond its visual appeal, the red spider lily holds a deeper significance. It symbolizes resilience and serves as a testament to nature's remarkable ability to flourish even under the harshest conditions. Whether you are an experienced gardener seeking a fresh challenge or a beginner with a budding green thumb, this comprehensive guide will serve as your gateway to unraveling the mysteries of growing red spider lilies.

Botanical Name

Common Name

Plant Type

Mature Size

Sun Requirement

Soil Type

Hardiness Zone

Pet Friendly

Lycoris radiata

Red spider lily, hurricane lily, surprise lily

Herbaceous, perennial

1-2 ft. tall, 12-18 in. wide

Full, partial

Well-drained, sandy, loamy

6-10 (USDA)


What is a Red Spider Lily

The red spider lily, often known as Lycoris radiata, hurricane lily, surprise lily, naked lily, or magic lily, is a flowering plant in the subfamily Amaryllidoideae of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis) family.

Red Spider Lilies have the power to breathe life into late summer and early fall gardens with their vibrant hues. For those who cultivate these lilies in pots or indoors, it is possible to stimulate winter foliage growth. However, witnessing their bloom during the fall is rare unless you devote careful attention to keeping the soil consistently moist throughout the summer.

Red spider lilies are dormant during the summer season. However, after its summer dormancy, it produces bright red flowers from its tall stalks. The red spider lily bloom typically occurs between September and October for a few weeks. Perennial bulbs typically require a period of 6-12 months in the soil before they burst into bloom; on average, four stalks and several individual flowers can be expected from a single bulb. The softball-sized, flaming-red flower always tops a naked stalk of 12-16 inches in height.

The red spider lily is a beautiful addition to gardens and offers additional benefits. It is known for being deer resistant, meaning that deer tend to avoid feeding on it. Furthermore, its captivating flowers are particularly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. As a result, incorporating Red Spider Lilies into your garden can create a visually appealing and wildlife-friendly environment.

What does the spider lily symbolize?

The red spider lily (Lycoris Radiata) is a fascinating plant with bright red flowers with a wide range of aesthetic and symbolic connotations. Others consider it a symbol of renewal and hope, while some associate it with the finality of death.

In Chinese culture, this particular blossom is regarded as a symbol associated with mourning and death. It is commonly shown at funerals as a symbol of the inevitable circle of life and death.

In Japanese culture, the red spider lily, known as "Higanbana" or "Manjushage," holds symbolic significance, and it is often associated with themes of death, farewell, and passing to the afterlife. Whatever the spider lily's significance in your life, it will always be a beautiful sight in a garden or bouquet.

Red Spider Lily

Source: Pixabay

Spider Lily Care Requirements

If cared for properly, red spider lily bulbs will continue to bloom year after year, unlike many hybrid bulbs. You can keep red spider lily bulbs alive for decades, but you'll need to occasionally lift and divide off the bulb offsets because the clusters will otherwise become unmanageable.

Sunlight Requirement

Red spider lilies do well in either full sun or partial shade. If possible, plant red spider lilies in a spot with at least five or six hours of direct sunlight daily. However, in hot climates, partial shade is ideal for flowering. In general, red spider lilies planted in full sun will bloom earlier than those same plants in partial shade.

Watering Needs

Spider lilies have a moderate water requirement to maintain their thriving growth. It is recommended to water your Red Spider lilies once a week during the growing season. As temperatures increase, the soil's moisture content diminishes faster, demanding more frequent watering to prevent dehydration.

To prevent bulb rot, it is crucial to avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can be detrimental to the bulbs. Standing water or waterlogged soil should be avoided, as it can cause detrimental effects on the bulbs. 

Overwatering can also result in yellowing foliage. If the plants are receiving too much water, the foliage may turn yellow before the flowers have a chance to bloom. 

Observing the soil moisture levels, adjusting watering frequency based on temperature and rainfall, and avoiding water accumulation are essential practices for successful red spider lily cultivation. By managing water appropriately, you can help your plants thrive and promote the development of beautiful, vibrant blooms.


Red Spider Lilies are relatively cold-tolerant plants, and they can withstand temperatures down to about 0°F (-18°C) when established. While best suited for USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 10, red spider lilies grow in colder climates with the addition of several inches of mulch.

These red spider lilies are adapted to hot and humid climates, and they thrive in warm temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C). They are well-suited for regions with long, hot summers.


Red spider lilies can handle temperatures as low as -18 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels as high as 90%. However, the ideal humidity for the red spider lily is between 40 to 50%. A humidity gauge should be used instead of guesswork to achieve an exact reading of the relative humidity level. When grown indoor, here are some ways you can increase humidity levels in dry indoor environments:


Using a spray bottle, misting the air around your red spider lily, or spraying water directly onto the leaves creates tiny water droplets that evaporate, increasing the humidity temporarily.

Tray of water

Placing a shallow tray or saucer filled with water near your red spider lily allows the water to evaporate gradually, increasing the humidity in the surrounding area. To prevent waterlogging, ensure that the bottom of the red spider lily pots does not come into direct contact with the water.

Grouping plants

Grouping plants together creates a microclimate with higher humidity. As plants release moisture through transpiration, the combined effect of their evaporation increases humidity levels around them. This approach is most effective for optimal results when applied to plants with similar humidity requirements.

Pebble tray

Creating a pebble tray involves placing a layer of pebbles in a tray or saucer and adding water until it reaches just below the top of the pebbles. The potted plants are subsequently positioned on the pebbles, utilizing them as a base. As the water evaporates from the tray, it promptly raises the humidity levels near the red spider lily. The pebbles help prevent the red spider lily from sitting in excess water.


Humidifiers are electronic devices designed to augment humidity levels by releasing water vapor into the air. They are available in different sizes and types, including cool-mist and warm-mist variations. Humidifiers are an efficient and controllable way to raise humidity in indoor spaces, such as homes, offices, or greenhouses.

Bathroom or kitchen proximity

Placing red spider lilies in or near the bathroom or kitchen takes advantage of the naturally higher humidity levels found in these areas due to regular water usage. The moisture generated from showers, baths, or cooking can create a more humid environment, benefiting nearby plants that thrive in higher humidity.

Moisture barriers

Using moisture-retaining materials like peat moss or mulch around the base of red spider lilies helps to conserve soil moisture. By creating a barrier, these materials reduce moisture evaporation from the soil and increase humidity levels around the plant's root zone.


When planting red spider lilies, it's best to do so in moist soil with rich organic material mixed. Red spider lilies thrive on fertile, well-drained, medium-moisture soils. To provide an ideal growing environment, it is recommended to utilize well-drained soil that ranges from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. The soil should be enriched with organic matter and have a sandy or loamy texture. In addition, adding bark, compost, or mulch to the soil every year can increase its nutrient content and enhance its drainage.


To avoid harming your newly planted bulbs, wait until they have established themselves and are producing green leafy foliage before applying fertilizer. Fertilizing outside the recommended times can be hazardous to your plant's health. The best times to apply fertilizer to a red spider lily are just before the flowers bloom in the early spring and again in the late spring or autumn.

A high-nitrogen fertilizer applied in the spring will supply the plant with the essential nutrients for a robust late-summer and fall growth period. So fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer, such as 8-2-4 (N-P-K).

Following the blooming season, applying a fertilizer high in potassium and phosphorus is advisable. This will stimulate root growth and improve the plant's ability to withstand winter conditions. Use a high potassium and phosphorus content fertilizer, such as a 3-4-5 N-P-K blend. By applying a fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorus after the blooming season, the plant becomes hardier and more resilient, better equipped to endure the challenges of the cold season.


The optimal time for propagating Red Spider Lilies through bulb division is during their dormant period, typically in late summer or early fall. This period is characterized by the foliage dying back, providing an opportune moment for division and propagation.

Gently dig up the clump of red spider lily bulbs using a garden fork or spade. Take care not to damage the bulbs. Carefully separate the individual bulbs from the clump. If necessary, gently shake off excess soil or use your hands to separate them, ensuring each bulb has its roots intact. Examine the bulbs for any signs of damage, disease, or rot. Discard any bulbs that appear unhealthy to prevent the spread of potential issues.

Choose the desired planting location or containers for the new bulbs. Dig holes or create furrows with the appropriate spacing, typically 4 to 6 inches apart. The planting depth should be around 2 to 4 inches, with the pointed tip facing upward.

Place each bulb into the prepared hole or furrow, ensuring they are at the appropriate depth and spacing. Cover them with soil, gently firming them around the bulbs to remove any air pockets. After planting, water the newly propagated bulbs thoroughly to settle the soil. 

Closeup shot of red tiger lily

Source: Pixabay

Common Problems

Sap Sucking insects

Insects that feed on plant sap can cause clusters of tiny yellow or white dots on the leaves. Insects that feed on sap, such as aphids, squash bugs, scale bugs, leafhoppers, whiteflies, mites, mealybugs, and others, are likely responsible for these stains if they do not wipe away. While sap-sucking insects most likely won't kill your plant on their own, they can greatly reduce its health and make it more vulnerable to illness.

bulb Rot

Although spider lilies are resistant to most pests and diseases, they are susceptible to root rot if cultivated in constantly damp soil. Overwatering can cause bulb rot, so be careful.

Insufficient Blooming

One common challenge with Red Spider Lilies is a lack of blooming. This can occur due to several factors, such as inadequate sunlight, improper planting depth, or bulbs that have become overcrowded. Ensure that the lilies receive sufficient sunlight and that bulbs are planted at the appropriate depth (typically 2 to 4 inches deep) with enough spacing between them to allow for proper growth.

Fungal Diseases

Red Spider Lilies can be susceptible to fungal diseases such as root rot caused by overly wet or poorly drained soil. To prevent such issues, it is essential to ensure that the soil has proper drainage and to avoid overwatering. If you observe symptoms of fungal infection, such as yellowing leaves or wilting, it is advisable to apply a fungicide following the manufacturer's instructions.

Bulb Division and Overcrowding

Over time, red spider lily bulbs can multiply and become overcrowded, leading to reduced blooming and overall plant vigor. For sustained healthy growth and optimal blooming, dividing and replanting the bulbs every few years is advisable, and this will help ensure adequate spacing and provide room for new bulb growth.

Is It Pet-Friendly

It is important to note that red spider lilies contain toxins and should be kept away from pets, which are unsuitable for animal consumption. Therefore, when planting Red Spider Lilies, choosing regions or areas that are out of reach for children, dogs, and cats is recommended. Taking precautions to prevent contact or ingestion of the plant by pets or young ones is essential to ensure their safety.

Are red spider lilies poisonous?

Yes, Red Spider Lilies are considered toxic to humans if ingested. The bulbs, leaves, and other parts of the plant contain toxins, including alkaloids, which can cause discomfort and digestive issues if consumed.

It is crucial to exercise caution and refrain from consuming any part of the red spider lily plant. If accidental ingestion occurs or if you experience any adverse reactions after contact with the plant, it is recommended to seek medical advice or contact a poison control center immediately.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.