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How to Grow Naked Lady Lilies or Amaryllis Belladonna

I love to write articles about how to grow and care for various kinds of wonderful plants.

Belladonna lilies in full bloom!

Belladonna lilies in full bloom!

Amaryllis Belladonna 101

Also known as belladonna lily, Jersey lily, resurrection lily, magic lily, surprise lily, or the March lily, the naked lady lily (Amaryllis belladonna) is an amazing flower.

Read on to learn more about these gorgeous flowers and how to plant and care for them.

Why Are They Called "Naked Ladies"?

The term "Naked Ladies" comes from the behavior of the plant, which sends up greenery in late fall but then dies back to nothing by the latter part of spring or early summer. Then when the early fall season comes, the plant sprouts a long stem without leaves (a "naked" stem) with a big, pink flower at the end of it.

Where Will They Grow?

While naked ladies are considered hardy from USDA zones 7 to 10, a lot of people say they have successfully grown them as far north as Chicago and southern Iowa, as well as in zone 4 in Colorado.

Some (but not all) of those making these assertions have said the naked ladies have grown from compost piles. This makes sense as compost would be much warmer than other areas of the garden or yard. That doesn't account for the others who have grown them in areas without the additional heat, however.

Sun and Soil Requirements

Naked Lady lilies love full sun and can be planted almost anywhere with well-draining soil, as long as they can drink in the rays.

Since it's a bulb, you don't want to place it anywhere with standing water, as it will rot as any other bulbous flowering plant would.

If you have hard or thick soil, amend with organic material to loosen it up.

When to Plant

With the obvious exception of cooler zones when the ground is frozen, these lilies can be planted any time of the year, but the ideal time is from October to early May.

A beautiful group of Naked Lady lilies.

A beautiful group of Naked Lady lilies.

How to Plant Naked Lady Lilies

  1. Naked Lady bulbs need to be planted with the pointed tip up. Dig a hole, put the bulb in, fill in the dirt, but leave the pointed tip slightly exposed to the air. In other words, don't completely cover it up.
  2. You can do this easily and practically by digging a hole the exact same length of the bulb or bulbs. Place the bulb in to see how much soil should be added to bring it above ground level, and add the appropriate amount of soil in the bottom of the hole to help the bulbs stay above ground level.
  3. Since Naked Ladies look better when planted in groups, you should plant a minimum of three bulbs, allowing them to touch one another—better yet, plant five or more, which will create a fantastic display when they bloom.
  4. Water after planting, getting the soil damp but not soggy. Naked Ladies don't mind moisture but, as with most plants, they won't do well if they get too wet.

Planting Strategies and Tips for the Belladonna Lily

The shape of these plants offers up all sorts of variations and possibilities in an overall landscaping design as the leafless flowers can be intermingled in numerous ways to create terrific effects.

  • They would be great in a rock garden, as back borders and mixed borders, and among ground cover. They can even be effectively worked in with low bushes or shrubs.
  • Plant them with other plants that are moderately drought-tolerant.
  • Amaryllis belladonna comes in various flower color options, including pink, white, mauve, and red.
  • They work well interplanted with bulbs that will bloom when the Naked Ladies are dormant to stagger the bloom times (like Agapanthus, which will bloom in spring).
  • When looking at the best way to plant your Naked Ladies, take into account the fact that there will be long stems with nothing on them but the flowers at the top.
  • Planting the bulbs really close together can offset the scattered look you sometimes see where the flowers are spaced out, looking sparse and unattractive.
  • Belladonna lilies look good when intermingled with other plants—especially ground covers—to fill in the space left by the lack of foliage and those long, bare stems. Another idea is planting something in front of the Naked Ladies to hide those long stems. Either way would work well.
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These naked lady lilies were planted too far apart and thus look a bit scattered.

These naked lady lilies were planted too far apart and thus look a bit scattered.

Caring for Naked Lady Lilies

  • Don't Prune the Foliage in Spring: Foliage will reappear in the early spring season, and it's best not to interfere with its natural process of dying back during this time. Let the plant die back naturally. Don't prune it!
  • Removing Stalks When Blooms Fade. Everything changes when the plant begins to flower. As the blooms begin to fade, remove the stalks immediately. If you don't, it'll go to seed. And if it goes to seed, the flower won't bloom the next season. There's really no reason to allow the plant to go to seed anyway, as it takes years for the resultant plants to bloom. Dividing the bulbs is a much better way of propagation for Naked Ladies.
  • Water Sparingly. Very little watering is needed for these drought-resistant plants. That's true even in hot, desert regions.
The Naked Lady is a long stem without leaves ("naked") and a big, pink flower.

The Naked Lady is a long stem without leaves ("naked") and a big, pink flower.


When should I plant Naked Ladies?

Plant bulbs in fall (October) to early spring (May) when they are at their peak of dormancy.

Can I divide them?

Yes, and it's a great idea. Divide them just after the blooms die.

Are they drought-tolerant?

Yes, once established, they don't need a lot of water. Remember to plant them with similarly drought-tolerant plants to make conserving water and caring for your plants even easier.

Are they annual or perennial?

They are annual in zones 3 through 6 and perennial in zones 7 through 10 where they often bloom each year even without water or special care.

Are they poisonous?

Yes, all parts of the plant (flower, stem, leaf, bulb) are poisonous if ingested.

Do they smell?

Yes, Amaryllis belladonna have a lovely, strong, sweet fragrance.

Do they make good cut flowers?

Yes, they make excellent cut flowers for vases and bouquets.

Are they deer- or gopher-resistant?

Yes they are. Not only are they drought-tolerant, but they are also resistant to many common pests.

Can I grow them in a pot?

Yes, and they can be brought indoors, although it can be tricky to get them to bloom again.

Growing Naked Lady Lilies From Seed

This is one of the few plants I wouldn't recommend growing from seed, as it can take many years before you see the first bloom—up to nine years according to some estimates, with the earliest being probably about four years from seeding.

If you still want to proceed, naked lady seeds should be strewn on the surface of the soil where you want to plant them and lightly covered with soil.

I wouldn't worry about spacing too much, as the flowers like to grow close together. And if they get too cluttered, you can easily divide them at a later time without doing any harm. Where there's plenty of sun and drainable but moist soil is the best spot to sow the seeds.

Normally, it takes anywhere from a range of 3 to 16 weeks before they germinate.

You could also sow seed in trays or pots and transplant them later. The same methods apply. February is a good month to sow Naked Ladies indoors.

If you do have Amaryllis belladonna seed, it should be sown immediately, as it doesn't have a long shelf life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 MakinBacon


Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 12, 2017:

Nice article. My mom grew naked ladies in her yard. I have some spider lilies that grow from naked stems, but the growing time is different and they behave differently.

Esther Ormsby on July 11, 2017:

Thank you so so so much for the information. I live in the high desert and have found these are the few plants that I can put up in my yard and multiply by them selves. I have been able to give them away to friends as a little gift.

Steve Kerner on May 18, 2015:

Thank's for all the good information ( the Best Site ) I have found.

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