Caring For Oxblood Lily

The easy-to-grow Rhodophiala bifida [roh-doh-FY-al-luh, BIF-id-uh] is an interesting plant with bright, vivid flowers. 

It belongs to the Amaryllidaceae family of plants and offsets vigorously, making it easy to propagate.

Rhodophiala bifida has several common names:

  • Oxblood lily
  • Schoolhouse lily
  • Hurricane lily

It’s a hardy plant native to Uruguay and Argentina. 

It’s also been introduced to the southern parts of North America, where it grows well in dry regions of Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.

More from the Amaryllidaceae Family:

Oxblood Lily Care

Size and Growth

Oxblood lily is a tropical bulb. 

Each bulb produces stems with multiple branches, eventually producing a clump of flowers.

Several stalks may appear from a small mound containing thin grass-like leaves. 

The green leaves typically reach 1′ to 2′ feet tall and die down at the end of summer.

Flowering and Fragrance

The cluster of bright red flowers appears at the top of the stalks emerging from the mound in the middle or end of summer. 

Most plants produce five or six flowers.

Blooms only last for two to three days. 

However, additional clumps appear continually for about one month.

Light and Temperature

  • Rhodophiala bifida is often grown as a houseplant. 
  • Potted plants require ample sunlight throughout the day but not direct afternoon sunlight.
  • Outdoor plants should receive full sun to partial shade. 
  • It grows well outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones 7a to 11. 
  • In zone 7, temperatures may reach down to 0° degrees Fahrenheit (-18° C). 
  • While it can tolerate short periods of zero-degree weather, prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures will likely kill the plant.

Watering and Feeding

Water fresh bulbs frequently in the spring. 

After the plants become naturalized, they require less water.

In the middle of summer, just before the flowers appear, the plant may not need any water.

Soil and Transplanting

  • Oxblood lilies grow in almost any type of soil, including soil with heavy clay. 
  • The plant also requires good drainage. 
  • If the soil doesn’t drain well, the roots may receive too much water, increasing the risk of root rot.
  • Plant bulbs at least 3″ inches deep and 8″ inches apart.
  • Transplant the bulbs at any time of the year, except for winter. 
  • The hardy bulbs can move without impacting the bloom the following fall.


No pruning is required, but trimming dead flower heads may encourage additional blooms before the end of the season.

How To Propagate Rhodophiala Bifida

Propagate by division, seeds, and offsets. 

Mature plants produce many offsets appearing around the base of the plant.

As bulbs only last for several years, collecting the offsets provides a constant supply of fresh bulbs.

  • Dig up the offset bulbs and transplant immediately to other spots in the garden or separate containers. 
  • It’s also possible to store the bulbs. 
  • Shake off loose dirt and trim back the roots.
  • Place the bulbs on a piece of newspaper or a tray to dry. 
  • It may take one to three days for the bulbs to dry thoroughly. 
  • After the bulbs dry, lightly dust them with sulphur. 
  • Place the bulbs in paper bags.
  • Store the bulbs in a cool, dry spot. 
  • Store them for up to 12 months. 

After a year, the bulbs may not successfully produce new growth.

To propagate by division, wait until the leaves die down at the end of summer. 

Only divide large golf-ball-sized bulbs. 

Smaller bulbs may not produce flowers the following year.

Propagating using seeds works best with fresh seeds. 

  • Start the seeds in small pots at the start of spring. 
  • Use a combination of compost and sand to create loamy, sandy soil.
  • Moisten the soil and scatter the seeds. 
  • Add a light layer of soil over the seeds and keep at room temperature. 
  • The seedlings should emerge in several weeks.
  • After the seedlings emerge, look for signs of new plant growth. 
  • When several stalks appear, transplant the young plants to separate containers or move outdoors.

Rhodophiala Bifida Pest or Disease Problems

Spider mites and scale insects may attack the plant. 

These pests are more common indoors, where conditions tend to become drier. 

Move infested plants outdoors and spray with cool water. 

The water should remove or drown the pests. 

Severe pest infestations sometimes require the use of commercial products, such as insecticidal soap.

The plant is mostly disease-free but may suffer from root rot when placed in the soil with poor drainage. 

Use a loam-based compost to improve drainage.

Rhodophiala bifida isn’t invasive, but it is toxic. 

All parts of the plant contain toxins, which may cause mild stomach pain when ingested by humans or pets. 

Small animals such as cats and small dogs may experience more severe digestive distress, but the effects are not life-threatening.

Suggested Oxblood Lily Uses

These bulb plants are mostly grown for their bright red flowers. 

Grow several bulbs in a potted plant to bring intense red color to any window sill. 

In warm regions, grow oxblood lily in dense clumps to create a sea of red.

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