Information About Aztec Lily


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What Is An Aztec Lily – How To Care For Aztec Lily Bulbs

By Shelley Pierce

We've all been there - adopting many a plant for the garden. The Aztec lily was like that for me, as its unique bright red flowers are simply irresistible. What is an Aztec lily? Learn more and get the scoop on Aztec lily care in this article.

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Sprekelia Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Aztec Lily, Jacobean Lily, Jacob's Lily.
Life Cycle: Half hardy bulb commonly grown as a half hardy annual by gardeners
Height: 12 inches (30 cm).
Native: Central America.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 10. As a perennial in zones 9 and 10.
Flowers: Spring and summer and/or autumn. Sometimes two blooms in a year other times may go for years without blooming.
Flower Details: Red. Lily-like.
Foliage: Lanceolate. Narrow.
Plant Outside: Bury bulbs about 5 or 6 inches deep. A few weeks after the last frost in cool areas or in autumn in warm areas. Spacing 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) often grown in pots.
Requirements: Full sunlight or partial shade. Good drainage. Rich soil. Slightly acidic soil and presence of oak trees is beneficial but not essential. Fortnightly liquid feed. Regular watering. Bring bulbs indoors in autumn in cold areas and store in vermiculite. Propagate: from bulblets.
Family: Amaryllidaceae.
Miscellaneous: Often grown as a pot plant. Aztec lilies usually do not bloom every year. Perhaps one out of every four plants will bloom in a given year.


Master Gardener: how to grow Aztec lillies

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Q. I just bought some Aztec lilies. They came with instructions for growing them in a pot but I wonder if I can grow them in the ground since we don’t have cold winters here. I don’t want to risk killing them.

A. The Aztec lily, Sprekelia formosissima, is a member of the Amaryllis family and is actually pretty easy to grow, so I doubt that you will kill them. For readers unfamiliar with them, they are native to Mexico, Central and South America. The flowers are about five inches across, a rich red color, and rather exotic-looking, somewhat resembling orchids. The strap-like leaves are about one inch wide and 12-18 inches long.

In our climate, with relatively mild winters, Aztec Lily bulbs can be planted in the ground and remain there year-round. In colder climates such as our local mountains, they must be lifted in the fall and stored in a dormant state until they are replanted in the spring. Regardless of climate, they can always be grown in pots, as your instructions directed, the same way you would grow other amaryllis bulbs.

In coastal Southern California and inland valleys, the best time to plant Aztec lilies is fall to winter from dormant bulbs. Despite their fancy appearance, they will tolerate full sun and any well-drained soil. They benefit from a spring application of fertilizer formulated for bulbs or flowering plants. The bulbs usually have a somewhat long neck but the main, round part of the bulb should be planted 3 or 4 inches below the soil surface. Space them at least six to eight inches apart, as they tend to multiply, and you don’t want to have to divide them too often.

Your Aztec lily bulbs should bloom a few months after the initial planting, assuming the bulbs were blooming-size. If they don’t bloom on time, it may be because the bulbs were not dormant, or were not dormant for a long enough period before planting.

You can induce dormancy by withholding water until the leaves turn yellow and eventually dry. Once the tops are thoroughly dry, wait another two weeks then resume watering. Fresh leaves should regrow within a few weeks and flowers will follow. By cycling periods of drying out and watering, you can induce your bulbs to flower several times per year. This is particularly easy to do when the bulbs are grown in pots but more difficult if they are in the ground.

If managing periods of watering and drying out are too much trouble for you, you can just keep them growing all year. The result will be sporadic flowering throughout the year, but no dramatic mass flowering. Regardless of the method of culture, this is a plant more gardeners should consider if they enjoy growing something a little bit different.


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