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Anne K Moore
Photograph Anne K Moore

Last fall I was shopping the clearance plants at a locally owned nursery when the name of one caught my eye, “Blood Lily.” I didn’t know what a blood lily looked like but the name was sure intriguing, so I bought one.

Blood Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus, formerly Haemanthus multiflorus) is also known as the powder-puff lily, fireball lily, and football lily. My Blood Lily must not be mature. Its bloom is only half the 10-inch size these flowers are to attain. My Blood Lily blossom reminds me of a giant Allium flower, only red not blue.

The bulbs originated in South Africa and are in the Amaryllis family.

The flower stalk shoots up before the foliage just like amaryllis blooms. Once the flower passes, then the foliage extends upward on speckled stalks. I bought mine at the foliage stage last year. I wintered it in our garage, where the temperature seldom falls below freezing. It probably would survive outdoors in the ground here in my Zone 8 garden but since I own only one plant, I think I will keep it potted for a while and safely sheltered during the winter.

If a blood lily calls your name and you come home with one, you should grow it just like an amaryllis bulb. Plant the bulb with a bit of the neck above the soil line in good potting soil in a pot or in an area of the garden that has decent drainage. Remember, just like almost all bulbs, the pointy end goes in the ground “up.”

If you live in a zone colder than USDA Zone 8, dig the bulbs and store them indoors when temperatures recede to 50 degrees. Dry the bulbs on a screen so that the foliage can die back naturally without mildewing. Even better, move the bulbs into containers in the fall a month before you want to move them indoors. Then they can die back naturally.

Withhold water throughout the winter months. In the spring, when temperatures are staying above freezing at night, it is safe to move them outdoors. I put mine in direct sun on the deck and watered it every day. It wasn’t long before the flower stalk emerged. Now that the blossom has appeared, I moved it to a mostly shady area to try to prolong its bloom time. After all, our temperatures are reaching for the high 90’s this week, and that is just too hot to set in the sun.

Posted June 20, 2014

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