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What is a Spider Lily?

H. Bliss
By H. Bliss
Updated May 16, 2024
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A spider lily refers to one of many different types of plants with flowers that resemble lilies. This type of plant grows from a bulb, and mostly blooms in or around the fall season. Generally, these types of plants have long, slim petals or other flower parts that resemble spider legs. Some varieties of spider lily grow bunched together in a way that looks like a large cluster of spiders. Usually seen as an indoor decorative plant or as landscaping foliage in wet areas, spider lily blooms can be small or large and come in a variety of colors.

The most common type of spider lily, the red spider lily, is also known as a Lycoris lily, a naked lily, or a surprise lily. The red spider lily has long, slim petals that droop downward and slender, outwardly protruding stamens that resemble spider legs. These plants are thought to originate from Asia or South America. They thrive on well-drained, slightly alkaline soil and moderate to heavy watering.

Contrary to common belief, a spider lily is not a true lily; it is really a member of the Amaryllidaceae family, also known as the amaryllis family. Because of the plants' lily-like flowers, many members of the amaryllis family are called lilies. Spider lilies are more closely related to daffodils and snowdrops than true lilies. In contrast, common true lilies include Easter lilies and tiger lilies.

Another type of flower, commonly called crinum, is also occasionally referred to as a spider lily. The crinum is another member of the amaryllis family. A crinum has large flowers with long and slim maroon, red, pink, or white petals, which look like spiders' legs that appear when the flowers bloom. The flowers can have solid colored petals, or the petals may be a combination of colors. Some species of the crinum plant are used to decorate aquariums.

Both red spider lilies and crinum spider lilies can be toxic if eaten and should not be left available to pets or children. Quasi-toxic spider lilies are not the same type of plant as the non-toxic spider plant, which is a green, leafy plant that grows in clusters and outputs little spider-shaped baby plants on outward reaching reproductive branches called stolons. Touted for its easy care, tolerance to poor conditions and its ability to increase indoor oxygen levels and reduce air pollution levels inside, the spider plant is a popular houseplant.

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Discussion Comments

By sunshined — On Jul 13, 2011

One year for Christmas a friend gave me an Amaryllis bulb in a pot. She told me not to water it until I began to see some growth on it and then to begin slowly watering it.

That bulb ended up producing the most beautiful tall, red blooms and was such a welcome surprise in the middle of winter. The spider lily pictures I have seen remind me of this amaryllis flower and I was not surprised to read they are in the same family.

By John57 — On Jul 12, 2011

I am familiar with many kinds of flowers and plants, but when we moved to a new place and I saw these bright red flowers pop up in late summer, I had no idea what they were.

I found out they were Spider Lilies and they are also known as surprise lilies because many times you don't even notice them until they are in full bloom. It is like they just appear over night.

Now that I know what these spider lily plants are, I am not surprised by them, but look forward to their bright blooms every year.

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