Blood Lily

Bright red puffball of a flower growing with other plants in a container

Blood lily. Courtesy of Jenks Farmer.

Blood lilies bring an arresting pop of color to any landscape. The globe-shaped flower heads seem to hover in mid-air and the leaves that appear later add texture to a planting. If you're looking for a plant that will set your landscape apart, blood lily is the bulb for you.

Characteristics

Blood lily's scientific name is Scadoxus multiflorus. Literally this name means "parasol of many flowers." The flower stalks that bear these many flowers can be up to 2 feet tall. At the top of each stalk is an orb up to 10 inches wide of blood-red blooms. These flower stalks will emerge all summer long, followed by green, strap-like leaves.

Blood lily leaves are between 7 and 18 inches long and form small clumps at the base of each plant. To form a mass planting, space your plants about 12 inches apart in large groups. Blood lilies also make an excellent container plant.

At the base of each blood lily is the bulb characteristic of all lilies. Fleshy roots grow from the base of the bulb, anchoring it to the soil and soaking up water and nutrients. Nurseries sometimes sell the dry, dormant bulbs in the winter and early spring. Don't be afraid to purchase these. Although the bulb looks dead, this is a normal stage of the lily lifecycle. Before you know it, the flowers will appear, bright and beautiful!

Planting and Care

Blood lilies prefer moist but well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. They do well in a container but are also a good choice for shady landscape beds beneath trees. Like many other lilies, direct, all-day sun will scorch them. Instead, choose a spot that gets only a couple hours of direct morning or evening sun.

Blood lily is native to South Africa, Swaziland, and southern tropical Africa. As you might expect, this lily looks its best when temperatures stay above 45 degrees. They are prone to damage by frosts and freezes. In North Florida plant it in a container that you can move to a sheltered location during the winter. In Central Florida the trees that provide shade to blood lily may also provide enough cold protection.

During the growing season blood lily prefers warm, wet weather. Once the weather cools, the bulbs go dormant and dry out. This makes blood lilies a good fit for Florida's cycle of wet summers and dry winters. If the early summer is dry, you may need to water the bulbs to encourage blooms.

To multiply your blood lily plant, carefully divide the bulb during the dormant season. Plant the resulting pieces with the "neck" of each bulb at the soil line and the rest of the bulb below. You can also pass these bulbs along to a friend.

If the soil is rich, blood lily doesn't require much added fertilizer. However, if your lilies have been growing in the same container for a few years, they may deplete the soil. A little slow-release fertilizer or a top dressing of compost will improve the plant's performance.

Blood lilies are the prey of many snails and slugs. Before you wage war, however, try to identify the pest species. Some snails and slugs are beneficial, eating the pests that are plaguing your lilies. Lubber grasshoppers will also feed on lily leaves. You can read more about managing plant pests here.

For more information on adding blood lilies to your landscape please contact your county Extension office.

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