The first spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) of the season popped up this week. It's easy to understand why they are known as the "surprise flower." Unlike most plants, where flowers bloom on stems and greenery already in place, this old-fashioned lily emerges from the ground as a single stem with the hint of a bud at its tip. It grows so fast you can almost see it, forming a big, spidery bloom.
After the bright red blossoms fade, the bulb's greenery emerges, forming sword-shaped clumps of leaves. The plant stores food for the next season's bulbs, so don't cut them back or mow over them after the blooms die. Divide the bulbs of the spider lilies in spring when the foliage starts to yellow.