Spider daffodil (Hymenocallis spp.) is sometimes known Peruvian daffodil and, most often, spider lily. It is not a true daffodil (Narcissus spp.) but does belong to the same amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae) as common daffodils. Spider lily is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 11 depending on the species. In cold-winter zones, less hardy varieties can be grown in pots and overwintered or used as annuals.
Spider daffodil grows from a bulb and features summer-blooming daffodil-like flowers with central cups surrounded by slender, back-curved or reflexed petals. The flowers appear in umbels, or flat-topped clusters. They are white, ivory or yellow, sometimes with green central eyes, and fragrant, blooming at the top of leafless stalks. The plants reach heights between 12 and 36 inches, depending on the species. The leaves, like those of other plants in the amaryllis family, are long, glossy and straplike.
Carolina spider lily (Hymenocallis caroliniana), is a white-flowered native of the southeastern United States. It grows up to 24 inches tall and is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. Cayman Islands spider lily (Hymenocallis latifolia), hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11, has some of the longest petals in the genus. Each white central daffodil-like cup is surrounded by six slender petals that are up to 5 inches long. “Zwanenburg” spider lily (Hymenocallis x festalis “Zwanenburg”) is a hybrid, hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10 and noted for its very large white flowers with scalloped cups.
Plant spider lily bulbs in full sun to part shade in consistently moist soil. Many varieties can also flourish in soil topped by 2 to 4 inches of standing water. If planting in the garden, plant bulbs in spring so that the tops are covered with about 2 inches of soil. If growing them in containers, plant with the necks above the soil line. After flowering, the leaves gradually dry out and can be removed after they do so. In cold-winter climates, either dig and store bulbs in a frost-free place or bring potted specimens indoors, watering sparingly.
Some water-loving varieties, like the Cayman Islands spider lily and the liriosme spider lily (Hymenocallis liriosme), hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10, can be used in water or rain gardens. All are fragrant and make good choices for fragrance gardens and all-white planting schemes. Their height makes them useful for the middle of mixed borders, as long as they are grouped with other moisture-loving plants. The native Carolina spider lily can also be included in native plant gardens within its hardiness zone.
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