Native to southern Africa, the belladonna lily, Amaryllis belladonna, grows well in USDA zones 7 through 10. Other common names for this summer flowering plant include naked lady and August lily. It has large, showy pink flowers and blooms in late summer on tall stems. The leaves do not appear until late fall or winter and last into mid-spring.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Garden shovel
- Garden trowel
- Organic mulch
Choose a sunny locale that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily and contains well-drained soil for the planting site. Avoid shady areas and soil that is heavy in texture or tends to flood or remain soggy after rains.
Dig the soil in the planting area with a garden shovel to a depth of 12 inches. Lift and mix the soil. Break up any clumps with your fingers or the back of the shovel blade. Remove any rocks. If the soil seems heavy in consistency, add compost, pine bark or other course organic matter to improve the texture and the soil's aeration and drainage qualities. Mix the amendments deeply with the shovel.
Let the soil settle for at least three days before planting the belladonna lily bulbs.
Dig a small hole with a hand trowel. Make it large enough to house the large, brown belladonna lily bulb in width and deep enough so the pointy tip of the bulb rests right at the soil line once planted.
Replace the soil around the bulb, compacting it gently with your fingertips. Double-check to ensure the tip of the bulb remains just at the top of the soil in the filled planting hole. It should be no deeper than 1 inch below the soil surface.
Water the bulb, adding 1 to 2 inches of soil to settle the area and encourage the bulb to produce its first roots. Keep the area weeded, and water it only if the weather is unusually dry. When the bulb is dormant in the heat of summer, do not irrigate, as the dry soil helps trigger the bulb to bloom in late summer.
Cut off old, dried flower stalks after their seed pods mature and they split open to shed seeds to the ground. If you don't want young plants germinating, cut off flower stalks immediately after flowering ends, before the seed pods form.
Tips and warnings
- In USDA Zone 7, plant belladonna lilies slightly deeper to help them overwinter and survive. The planting hole is made 6 inches deep so that the bulb's tip rests about 1 inch below the soil line once covered. Also place a thick, 4- to 6-inch mulch over the soil in early winter and remove it in early spring.
- If you choose to raise belladonna lilies in a container, use a well-drained soil with 2 parts peat to 2 parts loam and 1 part coarse sand. Bring the container indoors in winter when temperatures drop below -6.67 degrees Celsius and let the foliage naturally ripen and wither away. Keep the soil dry from late spring until the flower stalks reappear in late summer, and then increase watering to keep the soil moist.
- Do not dig up, divide or transplant belladonna lily bulbs while the flower stalk or foliage grows. Wait until the bulbs are dormant. Digging plants when they're actively growing disrupts their food-making cycle and seasonal cyclical timing, often causing plants to not bloom until the second growing season later. Or dig up bulbs right after the flowering ends but before the leaves appear.
- Never cut off the green leaves of the belladonna lily. To mask the foliage, plant other perennials or ground covers to make the perennial garden border look lush. Removing healthy leaves weakens the bulbs and results in lacklustre or no flowering the next summer.
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- "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants"; Christopher Brickell and H. Marc Cathey, eds.; 2004
- Learn2Grow: Amaryllis belladonna
- PlantzAfrica.com; Amaryllis belladonna; T. Adams Kirstenbosch; March 2001
- Cal's Plant of the Week: Amaryllis belladonna
- "Sunset Western Garden Book"; Kathleen Norris Brenzel, ed.; 2007