Naked Ladies in My Pasture
Sometimes it is hard to tell the changing of the seasons in warm climates. There certainly isn't the dramatic foliage change here in Texas that I am used to from living in Canada, but there is one sure sign that autumn has arrived that I can spot right in my own back yard and pasture. And, although they are called Naked Ladies, they probably aren't what you are thinking at all!
A Sure Sign of Fall
Naked Ladies, also known as Belladonna Lilies and Jersey Lilies, are one of the most unique plants I have found. They are actually the only true type of Amaryllis, Amaryllis belladonna to be exact, and they are really spectacular in their presentation. Although found over the southern part of the United States both in wild areas as well as gardens, they are actually natives of South Africa.
The Naked Ladies are so named because of their appearance, which is well— naked. In Greek mythology, Amaryllis was a shepherdess, and the term belladonna means a beautiful woman or lady. They have a long, flesh colored to tan colored stalk that supports a group of individual flowers, all set horizontally to form a circular shape. The leaves of the plant are very evident in the spring and summer months and resemble the leaves of liriope, just minus the flowers. The particular variety in my pasture has a dark green color leaf bunch and grows about six to ten inches in length. In the mid to late part of summer the foliage dies back, then in the late summer and early fall the stalks and flowers emerge.
The flowers are beautiful and vary in color from a lighter pink with darker centers to a deep reddish coral color with slightly peach centers and stamens. There are many varieties of this plant that are cultivated for growing in pots and containers and they can range in color from yellow to pinks and into the darker colors as well. Although not as showy as the Christmas Amaryllis, which is actually a different species known as Hippeastrum, the Naked Lady is really a beautiful addition to the garden.
In my area of north east Texas the fall rains and slightly cooler temperatures seem to trigger the bulbs to send forth the stalks and flowers. They spring up almost magically overnight, resulting in a dramatic color change.
The Amaryllis Belladonna Plant in the Garden
The Naked Lady is a bulb type of plant that can also be grown from seed. Bulbs are definitely the best option if you want to see results with one to two years after planting, seeds can take up to 7 to 9 years before flowers finally start to show. The do best in well drained soil in full sun, however they can handle partial sun as well.
Move established bulbs only when not actively growing either roots or flowers, so generally right after the flowers die is the best time. Moving them any other season results in a slow down of their growth and lack of flowering for several years. Since the bulbs are most spectacular in bunches, they are typically planted in groups of five or more bulbs that are spread out over about a square foot of space.
The bulbs should be placed in well drained soil at a depth of about two to four inches, surrounded by peat moss and soil mixture. During the spring and summer they need routine watering once a week, however they should not be soaked or kept constantly wet during this time as the bulbs can actually rot. During the foliage phase you can fertilize if desired, however with a good mulch cover each fall this is not generally necessary. After the leaves die off, cut back on watering as the bulbs need to dry out in order to produce flowers.
Once the stalks emerge water twice a week until the flowers die off. Do not fertilize at this time. Cover the ground with a good quality mulch to help with moisture retention and preparation for winter. In moderate climates the bulbs can remain outdoors, however they cannot tolerate long freezes and will need to come indoors in colder growing zones.
Since they literally grow everywhere here, in the pastures, ditches, around old buildings and of course where you plant them they are very popular fall flower additions. While they don't make a good cut flower they certainly do add color to the garden and really add a touch of elegance to fall foliage changes.