Q. When is a good time to dig up magic lily bulbs and transplant them? – Debbie Brown, Albany (South Kentucky RECC)
A. Hi, Debbie: Surprise lilies are exactly that! The foliage emerges in the spring and then dies down to the ground around June. Later in the summer, the tall leafless stalks with pretty pink blooms seem to come out of nowhere. They go by many different names including magic lily, resurrection lily and naked lady. There are several species of these bulbs but the most cold hardy and common in our area is Lycoris squamigera. These low-maintenance bulbs benefit from being divided every 3-5 years.
Dividing and transplanting can be done after the blooms fade; usually in September. As you dig up the bulbs, be careful not to damage them and keep as much of the root system as possible. Plant bulbs in a clump 5 inches deep and 6-8 inches apart to give them room to spread. It is always a good idea to prepare the new holes before digging up any plant. The more time out of the soil the more likely the roots are to dry out. So get them back in the soil and watered as soon as possible. Make sure to transplant where they will receive full to part sun with well-drained soil.
Treat them like a new planting in terms of moisture and avoid fertilizing for the first year. Apply a thin layer of mulch to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Keep in mind that these plants may not flower as well as they normally do since their energy will be concentrated on the roots during the first year of growing in their new home.
When the foliage emerges it is best to leave it alone so that it can store up the energy it needs to produce blooms.