Reds After the Rain

As happens every August and September, flower stalks of the perennial bulb Oxblood or Schoolhouse Lily, Rhodophiala bifida, have emerged. These bright pops of color appear, seemingly overnight, after the first few soaking late summer rains. This particular group lives among some Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima. The still green, but turning autumn-toasty feathery grass, contrasts with the deep red, dainty lilies, creating a charming scene.

So far, this is the only Schoolhouse Lily group that has awakened from its underground bed, but I’m confident that in coming weeks, other red surprises will reach up for a share of sunshine and a howdy! from pollinators. The individual blooms don’t last long, only a few days, but I’ve planted various bulbs around my garden and they appear, as they choose, at different times, allowing for a longer period in which to enjoy the pretties. Once the blooms fade, strappy foliage will stay green, disappearing in late spring as the temperatures rise. This Amaryllid was most likely introduced in Texas by a German colonist and botanist, Peter Heinrich Oberwetter (1830-1915). He imported R. bifida bulbs from Argentina and it has naturalized successfully in many parts of the state, especially here in Central Texas.

Another Amaryllis bulb making its flowery appearance after late summer rains is the Red Spider Lily, also called Guernsey Lily–Lycoris radiata. These stunning flowers, with their curled petals and spidery stamens, are showstoppers.

Like the Schoolhouse Lily, Red Spider Lily flowers emerge from buried bulbs after an August or September rain and sit atop fleshy stems . The stems of L. radiata are taller and the flower is larger than those of R. bifida. Both rock stunningly rich red accents in the garden.

This group of Red Spider Lilies produced five stems with flowers. The stems are single, with no foliage emerging until the flower has faded. Like the Schoolhouse Lily, the foliage will be evergreen through winter and spring, disappearing with warmer temperatures. The bulbs stay safe from summer’s heat in deep soil, needling little water through the summer months.

The foliage you see in both photos comes from a Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis. The Pigeonberry and Spider Lily are accompanied by a couple of Glo Coalson’s raku pigeons. I thought the Pigeonberry needed some pigeon friends. Also, these pigeons don’t poop.

Our blisteringly hot summer has somewhat abated and we’ve recently received 4-5 inches of rain. We’re still in an official drought, but the slightly cooler temperatures and the rain are most welcome by the garden and this gardener. Along with these reliable late summer bulb bloomers, everything in the garden is breathing a sigh of relief–greening up and flowering out–demonstrating their appreciating for the rain.

Red Hot

It’s hot, hot, hot!  That’s a common, though tiresome, refrain this time of year here in Austin, Texas as we’re all incessantly whining about summer’s heat.

Or maybe it’s just me who’s whining?

Handling the heat better than I are some heat-loving perennials, currently blooming, and instead of whining, they’re shining.  The Firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis, scoffs at summer’s heat and humidity, putting on a red-hot bloom show–with no intermission–for months at a time.  This one, which is situated in my shady front garden,

…softens a corner between a pathway and sitting area.

The red-orange tubular flowers attract tiny native metallic bees, though photos of such are hard to come by–the bees fly too fast and disappear into the floral tubes, rich in nectar and pollen.

You can catch a glimpse of purple-foliaged Purple heart augmenting the cheery red cascade of Firecrackers.


A different clump of Firecracker plant in my back garden adds to the tropical look around the pond.

Like the front garden Firecracker, this one has bloomed continuously since winter, because neither specimen froze to the ground due to the mild winter of 2015-16.

The pond Firecracker also enjoys a purple neighbor in the pond waterfall perennial called Ruby Red Runner.


Flame acanthusAnisacanthus quadrifidus, a heat-loving native Texas shrub with petite, bright red-to-orange blooms, is in full bee and hummingbird attracting mode.

This single bloom plays peek-a-boo through the foliage of a companion Plains goldeneye, but you can see some of its flaming partners in the background.


Another garden buddy, FirebushHamelia patens, in keeping with  the theme of red-hot beauties, is a real garden hot-shot.

Like the Firecracker plant, my Firebush never froze to the ground and has grown quite tall (almost 4 feet) because of this year’s non-winter.  My parents planted one many years ago in their garden in Corpus Christi, Texas (along the Gulf of Mexico) which has a more tropical climate than Austin.  It’s rarely been pruned and is–I kid you not–nearly two stories tall and  easily 20 feet wide.  My measly little shrub  has a lot of growing to catch up with that!

The scarlet blooms with their yellow throat make this an attractive source for hummingbirds.


Another blazing beauty in bloom is a surprise Spider lily, Lycoris radiata.

Typically, these stunning bulbs push their flowers up and out, seemingly overnight, in late August or September.  But this one decided to grace the garden a little early.

A flamboyant, red-hot late summer treat!

As this is posted, our triple-digit heat wave is broken.  Rain is falling and is forecasted for the next few days.  For Texans, rain in early August is a gift–and tremendously appreciated. Oh, it’ll toast up again, rest assured.  But the long, dry Texas summer is being shown to the door and autumn’s second spring blooming cycle arrival is eagerly awaited.

I thank Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting this monthly bloom bonanza known as Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.  Join in, share your garden pretties, then click over to her lovely blog to see and learn about blooms from many places.

Luscious Lycoris

It’s fall!!


I can always tell, especially when these beauties surprise me.  Even if I wanted to, there’s no way to ignore this!

After our first decent rain in early September, the Red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, sends up its bloom stalk and in the following days, stunning blooms unfold.

The long stamens give rise the the common name, spider.

These petals and those extravagant stamens still sported rain drops on a recent morning after overnight rain.

In the Amaryllis family and native to the Far East, this bulb has naturalized in the southern part of the United States. Here in Austin, they’re easy to grow.  Plant now (in the early fall), in a part shade to shady spot and wait.  And if you’re like me, forget about them, go on with your life, your stuff, and your gardening.  Then be happily surprised each September–I never remember that I’ve planted them.  They pop out of the ground and do this:

…and then they do this.

Usually there are several blooms, one atop each scape, rising from the dormant-since-last winter bulbs.

After the flowers fade, the foliage will emerge–it looks similar to liriope foliage, except with a pale-yellow stripe up the middle.  The foliage will stick around until sometime in late winter–I don’t really know because I never realize that they’ve gone.

I only have three groups of L. radiata.  In this area I planted two bulbs in two different spots,

…while here resides a single bulb.

I planted my bulbs three years ago and this is the second year they’ve bloomed. They seem happy here.

So you know how I’m always preaching about planting for pollinators–bees, butterflies, and other assorted wildlife?  Well, forget all that for this one post:  you plant Red Spider Lily for yourself.  Go ahead, be completely selfish and shoot for style over substance. I’m sure in its native range, there’s something that feeds on Lycoris radiata–but not here.  No sir, I haven’t seen anything so much as hover around the Spider Lily, wondering whether this is something worth sipping from or chewing on.  This plant is for looks only–it’s a total fluff plant, indulging the pretty-plant-person resident in every gardener.

And that’s okay.

Plant, wait. enjoy!!