Belladonna Lily Planting Guide

If you live in a part of the country where Belladonna lilies happily ovewinter, find a place for a few, at least. Tough, beautiful, fragrant and long lived these are plants that earn their garden space year after year. Also known as Naked Ladies or Surprise Lilies because the flower stalks typically preceed the foliage, the tall blooming stems are a sight to see in the late summer to autumn landscape.

Notice a resembalance to the popular holiday amaryllis often grown indoors? Belladonna lilies are in the same botanical family, with the common name Amaryllis belladonna and latin name Hippeastrum belladonna.

Choosing a Site

Belladonna lilies prefer full sun sites and can happily manage hot, dry locations once they've had a season to establish. Feel free to site belladonna lilies on exposed hillsides, in sunny beds or along borders that receive all day sun.

Soil Prep

Belladaona lilies aren't fussy about soil, but do need good drainage. A sandy loam mixture is ideal. Heavy clay isn't a good fit.

When to Plant

Plant either in spring or fall in the fall when the soil has cooled a bit from sunmmer's heat. Bulbs purchased in the spring should be planted in the spring, while those harvested and sold for fall planting should be planted in the fall. Carrying unplanted bulbs over from one season to another isn't recommended. Fall planted bulbs develop roots during the winter, giving them a jump on bulbs planted the following spring. 

How to Plant Belladonna Lily Bulbs

Loosen your soil and plant your tear drop shapped bulbs with their tips at soil level pointing upwards. Space about 12" apart.

After planting, water well to settle the soil around the bulbs. Unless the weather is exceptionally dry, no additional water is typically needed until the plant begins to dvelop its long, strappy foliage.

During the Growing Season

Fertilizing belladonna lilies generally isn't necessary unless your soil is exceptionally lean. These are plants that can thrive on neglect. 

At Season’s End

When the foliage yellows, feel free to remove it to keep the garden looking neat. 

Belladonnas in Containers

Belladonna lilies are well suited to container growing and can be spectacular in bloom. Keep in mind that plants in containers tend to be more succeptable to winter cold. If you live on the edge of the hardiness range for belladonna lilies, in the ground sites are likely to be more successful long term.  

Insider Tips

  1. Belladonna lilies don't like to be disturbed. Move plants or divide bulbs only when absolutley necessary. They make take a year or two to begin blooming after being moved.
  2. All parts of belladonna lily plants are posionous so they are generally unbothered by deer, rabbits, rodents and other animals.
  3. Belladonna lily flowers make sensational cut flowers.
  4. When plants have finished blooming for the year and begin to start to develop seed pods, trim off the pods (and much of the stem if you like). This will channel the plants' energies into developing more bulbs, roots and blooms for future years.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average, well drained

Depth: Plant bulbs with tips at ground level

Water: Low moisture needs

Uses: Mediterranean and cottage gadens, containers and borders

Tip: Use where deer and rabbits are a problem

GUIDE: Belladonna Lilies

They Start Out Looking Like This: