Peruvian Daffodil Care: How To Grow Spider Lily Ismene

If you are the impatient type who can’t wait half the summer for a blossom, then try easy to grow spider lilies (Peruvian Daffodil) – they will delight you.

The Peruvian Daffodil plant from the family Hymenocallis is also known as spider lily, basket flower, Pancratium calathinum and Ismene calathina. The former generic name was Ismene. 

Flowering Peruvian Daffodil
The delicate fringed blossoms and sturdy sword-like leaves of Peruvian daffodil (Hymenocallis calatliina)
add strength and color to bed and border plantings.

With a better understanding of the growth requirements and proper Peruvian daffodil care, it should be more popular in Northern gardens.

The usual complaint is that there is no Hymenocallis flower the second year.

Actually it is not a lily at all, but belongs to the Amaryllis family – Belladonna lily, Crinum lily – and shows many of its characteristics.

It has a large waxy flower with a long trumpet-like tube. Flowers bloom in clusters of three to six on a single stem above glossy sword-shaped leaves.

Peruvian Daffodil Care

Size & Growth

The spider-lily, Hymenocallis Calathina, is a handsome, stately, striking plant in any garden. Its funnel-shaped flowers with fringed crowns are startling in their waxen beauty.

The foliage is lustrous throughout the growing season, giving real possibilities for its use as a border accent.

It is an excellent tonic for tired borders. Also, its root system is deep so there is no competition with shallow rooted annuals.

Flowering and Fragrance

The large white blossoms are very fragrant as well as attractive.

A bulb two inches in diameter or larger will usually bloom. The number of blossoms on a flower stem depends on bulb size.

A two-inch bulb usually bears three blooms on a single stem. A 3 1/2 inch bulb will have as many as eight to ten on a single stem.

The larger Peruvian daffodil bulbs will often send up more than one flower stem with a corresponding increase in bloom.

Few other plants offer such beauty and fragrance of blossom with continued beauty of foliage throughout the growing season.

Light & Temperature

Peruvian daffodil Hymenocallis like full sun, but will grow well in partial shade. 

The flowers turn toward the direction of greatest light. This should be considered in placing the plants. In front of buildings or shrubbery, the flowers will usually open away from the background.

The plants take kindly to light partial shade but do best where the sun is bright most of the day. 

Watering and Feeding

Peruvian daffodil plants need a great deal of moisture to support their exuberant growth and bloom. Mulching solves this problem and keeps their roots moist and at an even temperature. But like most bulbs, they have a dislike for soggy soil.

A little well-rotted cow manure or some of the sterilized, pulverized cow manure available seems to be all hymenocallis requires for food.

All-purpose garden fertilizer applied at the beginning and middle of the growing season is effective.

If high nitrogen fertilizers are used without plenty of water, the foliage tends to grow at the expense of the bulb.

If it receives all-purpose garden fertilizer and plenty of water the foliage and bulb will keep growing larger year after year.

Soil & Transplanting

The daffodil Hymenocallis prefers a fertile well-draining, sandy soil. They seem to do better in soils with a good natural lime content.

Plant the bulbs in the garden during the late spring when there is no longer danger of frost.

The plants do not appear sensitive to cold as long as there is no frost or freeze.

The bulb should be planted so the top is three to four inches below the ground surface.

The dormant bulb may be up to 3” inches in diameter, of plump, round form, with dark brown tunics. Planted in early spring the bulb usually flowers in early summer in eastern gardens and forms 6 to 8 leaves some 2’ to 3’ feet tall.

Certain soils encourage rapid production of off-sets, probably due to moisture consistency and mineral content. Other types of soils promote development of large, firm bulbs with few offsets. 

The sandy loam in Florida makes Hymenocallis calathina produce abundant offsets, so many that the bulb seldom increases in size from year to year. That seems to be the difficulty with Hymenocallis calathina all over the Southeast.

In the North, in heavy soils, it often multiplies slowly and large, hard bulbs develop.

Growing Indoors

Spider lilies are even more useful inside during winter. Their fragrant flowers and shiny leaves help bridge the winter gap. They make wonderful potted plants.

The common Peruvian daffodil, calathina, is a good indoor plant, as are calathina var. sulphnrea, a pale yellow, and caribaea, smaller but making up in fragrance what it lacks in size.

When a little growth appears pot them in rich, coarse well-drained soil with one-third peat moss added.

The bulb should be watered lightly until growth starts. The bulb seems to need soil humidity completely around it to trigger blossom growth.

Good healthy growth starts almost immediately. Help Hymenocallis along with feedings of soluble organic fertilizer (compost tea) every ten days. When grown inside plants should be shaded from bright sun.

These make large plants and should be grown in a five- or six-inch pot.

Indoors the soil must be kept damp, but never so soggy. The roots need to breathe. Water lightly until good root growth is established and add water as growth increases.

Gradually decrease the water when the top begins to die. Continue to keep the plant warm until it is completely dormant.

Leave Peruvian daffodils in their pot to rest and do not repot more often than every third year since it does not like being disturbed.

Add an inch of rich topsoil each year you do not repot the bulbs. Spider lilies multiply by offsets so you will soon have more than enough for gifts or trades.

Grooming And Maintenance

After the growing season ends by frost, remove the Peruvian daffodil bulbs and store in a warm place over 60° degrees.

If the ground is permitted to dry out during a dry spell the bulbs tend to develop internal divisions.

In the South, store the bulbs in peat or dry sand in a location where freezing weather will not reach them.

Farther north Peruvian daffodils should be stored and protected like gladiolus or dahlias in winter. Store them in some kind of insulating material like peat or dry sand to keep the roots from withering.

NOTE: Peruvian daffodil Hymenocallis bulbs are tender and should be dug before cool weather, although in the press of autumn work some have left them safely through a light frost.

A gardener in Virginia shared that he never takes up his spider lilies in the winter. Although there is some winter-killing, the bulbs multiply so rapidly it makes little difference.

If you live in a moderately warm climate where deep, lasting cold is unknown, you may be able to leave the bulbs safely in the ground.

If you try it, put a loose, deep winter mulch over them after the first frost.

How To Propagate Peruvian Daffodil Hymenocallis

When frost ends the growing season, the hymenocallis festalis bulbs should be removed carefully from the ground, in order not to break off the heavy roots where they join the bulb.

A new bulblet probably will start at the base of the bulb where the root was broken off.

This is one means of obtaining additional bulbs but at the expense of maximum main bulb growth.

Bulb divisions should not be separated until only a thin crust connects the two parts at the root line.

The seeds, after they separate naturally from the flower stems, may be planted and will soon sprout new plants.

Hymenocallis Pests or Diseases

The Peruvian daffodil does not bloom if not allowed its natural winter rest. It needs almost no water during this time.

Cerospora panratiic (leaf spot) occurs in the deep south. For control remove and pick off infected leaves a destroy.

Leaf scorch – leaves and flower stalks have small red raised spots.

The three most common insect pests include snow scale, greenhouse thrips, Spanish moth caterpillar.

Suggested Uses For Peruvian Daffodil 

The plants are effective in borders, used individually, or in groups of three or more. The blossom clusters of plants in groups are very striking and very fragrant.

These are flowers whose beauty you discover only after you have been enticed by their fragrance.

One favorite combination is spider lilies and delphinium, each accenting the beauty of the other. Try them with deep-toned iris, Amaryllis or the lovely pink resurrection lily (Lycoris squamigera).

Reader Shares Success

In our garden the Hymenocallis x festalis or Hymenocallis narcissiflora plants have grown well in full or partial sun, heavy or light well-drained soil, indoors as well as outdoors.

The ground should not be allowed to dry out or become soggy. Water but do not soak.

With plenty of water and feeding during the growing season and a warm dry resting period during the winter, we have had no trouble in obtaining bloom.

In fact, we have had no trouble in growing the super or premium Peruvian daffodil bulb sizes with the rewards of larger flower clusters and larger plants for use as an accent in borders.

There are many other species of the hymenocallis that are interesting and beautiful. Once you have successfully grown those mentioned here you will go on to conquer new worlds.

Peruvian Daffodil Questions and Answers

When do Peruvian daffodils bloom?

The bloom time for Peruvian daffodil is in early summer.

Peruvian Daffodil Not Blooming: Please tell me why my Peruvian Daffodils have not bloomed for the second year and what to do about it? EG., Pitman, NJ

Peruvian Daffodils should bloom every year if grown in good soil and stored in a fairly warm place over winter. Dig them up when the frost has blackened the tops, leave the roots intact. Just cover them with dry sand and store at a temperature of 55° to 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

I have grown Peruvian daffodils for the first time. As I understand the bulbs are not hardy, do they require special handling to carry them through the Winter?

Hymenocallis calathina, a member of the amaryllis family and not a daffodil at all, should be lifted when the first frosts blacken the leaves. Dig bulbs with care so as not to break the long roots, which should not be removed, and then placed in an airy place to dry.

After the leaves are withered and the bulbs dry, store in a warm place where the temperature will not go below 55° degrees Fahrenheit.

My Peruvian daffodils and tuberoses multiply but never bloom. Could the depth of planting have any effect on this? PN, Minnesota

Peruvian daffodils (Ismene flower) and tuberoses both increase by offsets, that is the mother bulb produces new side bulbs. These bulbs are usually too small to flower the first year and must be grown for several seasons to produce blooming sized bulbs.

Under poor growing conditions, the Peruvian daffodil continue to produce bulbs year after year that is too small to bloom. If large bulbs are planted with about two inches of covering for tuberoses and three inches for Ismene, they should bloom each year.

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