Lycoris (Surprise Lily, Hurricane Lily)
Juniper Level Botanic Garden - An Ex-Situ Conservation Garden
Our Mission is to Collect, Study, Propagate, and Share
As of 2020, JLBG has just over 27,000 taxa of living plants. At Juniper Level Botanic Garden, part of our mission is to educate and share both plants and information. This photo/informational gallery is devoted to cataloging as many forms as possible. It is our hope that this photographic study gallery can also prevent duplicate use of names and prevent confusion in the trade.
Lycoris (Surprise Lily, Hurricane Lily, Spider Lily) have long been a geophyte of interest, and since our climate is perfect for their growth, we are attempting to assemble a complete lycoris collection, and sort out some of the taxonomic misinformation, as well as to make many unavailable clones available to more gardeners. Here at JLBG, we currently grow all of the Lycoris species and over 650 unique clones, making this most likely the largest lycoris collection in the world.
Based on the extensive body of DNA research, and confirmed in our field trials, there are most likely only 6 lycoris species…a far cry from the 13-20 often cited. Lycoris traubii is still debated as being a subspecies of L. aurea and L. shaanxiensis could possibly be valid.
Two of the lycoris species have foliage that emerges in fall, and five have foliage that emerges in late winter/early spring. Because all lycoris are winter-growing, the foliage emergence times determines their ability to withstand winter cold. Regions with extremely cold temperatures that start in very early fall and remain cold may actually delay foliage emergence, making the fall foliage lycoris survive better in regions with fluctuating winter temperatures.
Typically, lycoris species with fall-emerging leaves are winter-hardy to Zone 7….some clones slightly more, some slightly less.
Fall emerging foliage Lycoris species (zone 7 and warmer)
- Lycoris aurea - golden yellow flowers
- Lycoris radiata - red/scarlet flowers
- Lycoris traubii - golden yellow flowers (many authors treat this a simply a variety of subspecies of L. aurea). Many other don't consider the characteistics that are different to be worthy enough to be a new species.
Lycoris species with spring-emerging leaves are generally winter-hardy to Zone 5, possibly colder
Spring Foliage (Zone 5)
- Lycoris chinensis - golden yellow flowers
- Lycoris longituba - white with occasional yellow or pink blushing
- Lycoris sanguinea - orange
- Lycoris sprengeri - pink with blue tips
- Lycoris shaanxiensis - pink and white stripes - virtually all plants in commerce have fall foliage and as such are incorrectly named. Photos of the true plant appear to actually represent a valid taxa, but we have yet to observe these in person.
All other lycoris are hybrids. Hybrids between two spring-leaf species retains the Zone 5 hardiness, but crosses of a spring-leaf and a fall-leaf species always produces offspring with fall foliage, so the hardiness of these hybrids always reverts to Zone 7. In theory, crosses with two spring species and one fall species could delay leaf emergence enough to increase winter hardiness.
Many of these Lycoris hybrid group names are long established, most originally published as true species, which DNA has since shown to be hybrids. Other names are unpublished and assigned by us as working names for the hybrids we grow.
Fall x Fall leaved hybrids (Zone 7) (foliage emerges here late Sept/mid Oct.)
- x albiflora (syn: L. elsiae) – aurea (fall) x radiata (fall) - white-cream/yellow/orange
Spring x Spring leaved hybrids (Zone 4/5) (foliage emerges here Feb/March)
- x caldwellii – chinensis (spring) x longituba (spring)- yellow
- x flavescens – (same as x chejuensis) - chinensis (spring) x sanguinea (spring) - yellow orange
- x incarnata (same as x squamigera), but may be worth conserving if L. x squamigera is designated as a single clone - light pink with blue flush to near white
- x sprenguinea (unpublished) – sprengeri (spring) x sanguinea (spring) - salmon with blue tips
- x sprengensis (unpublished) – sprengeri (spring) x chinensis (spring) - cream, yellow with blue/pink buds
- x squamigera (same as elegans, incarnata) - – longituba (spring) x sprengeri (spring)
- x shaanxiensis (determined by DNA (Cytologia 2018) to be a hybrid of L. chinensis x either L. sprengeri or L. sanguinea) - plants with fall emerging leaves sold under this name are L. x straminea.
Fall leaved x Spring leaved hybrids (Zone 7) (foliage emerges here mid Oct-late Oct)
- x chinaurea (unpublished)– aurea (fall) x chinensis (spring) - golden yellow flowers
- x cinnabarina – aurea (fall) x sanguinea (spring) - orange flowers
- x radguinea - radiata (fall) x sanguinea (spring)
- x rosea (same as jacksoniana) – radiata (fall) x sprengeri (spring) - flowers pink with blue tips
- x sprengurea – aurea (fall) x sprengeri (spring)- yellow, pink, cream blend
- x straminea (syn: houdyshelii) – radiata (fall) x chinensis (spring) - flowers cream,yellow, orange
- x rubroaurantiaca – undetermined by DNA
Tri-specific Fall leaved x Spring leaved hybrids (2/3 spring x 1/3 fall)(Zone 7) (foliage typically emerges here in mid-to late December)
- x longitosea (unpublished) – longituba (spring) x sprengeri (spring) x radiata (fall) - flowers pink with faint blue markings
- x rosguinea (unpublished) – radiata (fall) x sprengeri (spring) x sanguinea (spring)- salmon, orange with blue tips
- x rosensis (unpublished) – radiata (fall) x sprengeri (spring) x chinensis (spring) - flowers pink, yellow blend with blue tips
Tri-specific Fall leaved x Spring leaved hybrids (1/3 spring x 2/3 fall)(Zone 7)
- x radchinaurea (unpublished) – radiata (fall) x aurea (fall) x chinensis (spring) - flowers yellow, orange
- x rosaurea (unpublished) – radiata (fall) x aurea (fall) x sprengeri (spring) - flowers cream, yellow, orange
The following lycoris names are synonyms of earlier-published names
- Lycoris africana - synonym of Lycoris aurea
- Lycoris anhuiensis - form of Lycoris longituba
- Lycoris argentea - synonym of Lycoris sprengeri
- Lycoris chejuensis - synonym of Lycoris x flavescens
- Lycoris elegans - synonym of Lycoris x incarnata
- Lycoris elsiae - synonym of Lycoris x albiflora
- Lycoris guangxiensis - Appears to be a synonym of Lycoris chinensis
- Lycoris haywardii - synonym of Lycoris sprengeri (southern form) - all plants in the trade under this name are Lycoris x rosea...see gallery images for the type specimen
- Lycoris houdyshelii - synonym of Lycoris x straminea
- Lycoris hunnanensis - Most likely a fertile form of Lycoris x straminea
- Lycoris jacksoniana - synonym of Lycoris x rosea (when back crossed with Lycoris radiata to make 2/3 radiata and 1/3 sprengeri)
- Lycoris josephine - synonym of Lycoris radiata var. radiata
- Lycoris lajolla - synonym of Lycoris aurea
- Lycoris rubroaurantiaca - synonym of either Lycoris x cinnabarina or Lycoris x flavescens
- Lycoris sinuolata - form of Lycoris aurea
- Lycoris sperryi - synonym of Lycoris aurea
- Lycoris terraccianii - synonym of Lycoris radiata
- Lycoris traubii - synonym of Lycoris aurea Taiwan form
- Lycoris uydoensis - synonym of Lycoris x flavescens
- Lycoris washingtoniana - synonym of Lycoris x straminea
- Lycoris woodii - synonym of either Lycoris x albiflora or Lycoris x straminea
Early Lycoris Breeding abbreviations
Sam Caldwell, the grandfather of modern lycoris breeding developed a series of codes for his crosses, based on the parents used and which was the pod parent. In crosses, the pod parent (mother) is always listed first. These are helpful because all crosses using the same parents are not the same. A F1 (first generation) cross of Lycoris sprengeri x radiata will all look fairly similar, but when the F1 is crossed back onto Lycoris radiata a second time, the offspring has a much redder flower. The more generations a breeder continues with the same parents (line breeding), the better chance of coming up with something unique.
A few of Sam's abbreviations are listed below
- hay = haywardii, which now is Lycoris sprengeri 'Haywardii'
- jax = jacksoniana, which is Lycoris radiata x sprengeri x radiata
- ra= radiata
- san= sanguinea
- sper = sperryi, which is simply Lycoris chinensis
- hay-ra = x rosea (sprengeri x radiata)
- hay-san = x sprenguinea (sprengeri x sanguinea)
- hay-sper = x sprengensis (sprengeri x chinensis)
- hay-chin = x sprengensis (sprengeri x chinensis)
- jax-ra = x rosea (radiata x sprengeri x radiata x radiata)
- ra-hay = x rosea (radiata x sprengeri)
- ra-spre = x rosea (radiata x sprengeri)
- spre-hay x ra-jax = x rosea (sprengeri x sprengeri x radiata x sprengeri x radiata)
- jax x ra-hay = x rosea (radiata x sprengeri x radiata x sprengeri)
We hope you enjoy the lycoris gallery. If you have photos of plants not included, we'd love to add them. We also welcome your comments. You can email us at email@example.com
As of 2020, JLBG has just over 27,000 taxa of living plants, making the collection one of the most diverse in the world. Fundraising for an operational endowment to preserve the garden is underway, administered by NC State University. If you'd like to help preserve the gardens and plant collections for future generations, you can do so with a tax-deductible contribution at JLBG.org and click on the Donate Link.