What Is An Aztec Lily – How To Care For Aztec Lily Bulbs

What Is An Aztec Lily – How To Care For Aztec Lily Bulbs

If you’re a gardener, there’s a good chance you have a photo gallery on your phone or social media featuring flowers ‘wow factor’ flowers that you’ve either snapped in person or captured in the digital realm – you know, the kind where you have to talk yourself down from making yet another botanical adoption. We’ve all been there – and adopted many. The Aztec lily (Sprekelia formosissima) was like that for me, as its unique bright red flowers are simply irresistible. What is an Aztec lily? Read on to learn more and get the scoop on Aztec lily care.

What is an Aztec Lily?

Native to Mexico’s rocky hillsides, Aztec lilies are a member of the Amaryllis family, and its flowers are actually a bit reminiscent of an amaryllis. The Aztec lily flower has six 6-inch (15 cm.) long petals in a unique configuration, which are at the apex of a foot long scape (leafless stem).

The top 3 petals are upright and curled back at the tips. The lower 3 petals hang downward and are furled together a bit at the base enclosed over the stamens. The petal color most associated with Aztec lily is scarlet or crimson red; however, there are cultivars available with pink and white. The long, narrow dark green leaves of an Aztec lily tend to lose their perkiness as they grow longer, and are likened to those of a daffodil.

If you are seeking a bulb plant that reliably flowers every year, the Aztec lily may disappoint, as it appears to be a finicky sort. In perennial outdoor planting, blooming typically occurs in late spring to early summer and, depending on the cultivar, in the fall as well. Seasonal (new) plantings could be delayed several weeks longer. More than one flower scape may be produced annually from each bulb, but not in tandem. The blooming period of container houseplants can prove to be variable.

How to Care for Aztec Lily Plants

The Aztec lily is a tender bulb plant and is rated for USDA zones 8-10. Those within these zones can be growing Aztec lilies in the ground year round, provided a few inches of mulch is offered to the plant during the winter months as an extra layer of protection.

When planting outside, be sure to plant in a full sun location in well-draining alkaline soil, after the threat of frost. When positioning the bulb in the soil, leave a bit of the bulb neck above the soil line and follow the recommended spacing for Aztec lily bulbs, which is 8-12 inches (20-30 cm.) apart and 4 inches (10 cm.) deep.

If you don’t reside in the recommended zones, consider growing Aztec lilies in containers in some well-draining potting mix. Aztec lily bulbs do not like to be dug up, and can respond by not blooming for several years afterwards, which would not be a desirable outcome. However, if you’re outside the recommended USDA zone, you can dig up your Aztec lily bulbs in the fall and store them in a dry, frost-free location during the winter, and try your luck the following year.

Aztec lilies in containers can be full-time houseplants if they receive four hours of sun per day, or they can be placed outdoors with a winter curfew and protection from excessive rainfall. Stop watering the container plant when you see signs of dormancy (leaf dieback), and resume watering and light fertilizing at the first signs of renewed growth.


Master Gardener: how to grow Aztec lillies

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Q. I just bought some Aztec lilies. They came with instructions for growing them in a pot but I wonder if I can grow them in the ground since we don’t have cold winters here. I don’t want to risk killing them.

A. The Aztec lily, Sprekelia formosissima, is a member of the Amaryllis family and is actually pretty easy to grow, so I doubt that you will kill them. For readers unfamiliar with them, they are native to Mexico, Central and South America. The flowers are about five inches across, a rich red color, and rather exotic-looking, somewhat resembling orchids. The strap-like leaves are about one inch wide and 12-18 inches long.

In our climate, with relatively mild winters, Aztec Lily bulbs can be planted in the ground and remain there year-round. In colder climates such as our local mountains, they must be lifted in the fall and stored in a dormant state until they are replanted in the spring. Regardless of climate, they can always be grown in pots, as your instructions directed, the same way you would grow other amaryllis bulbs.

In coastal Southern California and inland valleys, the best time to plant Aztec lilies is fall to winter from dormant bulbs. Despite their fancy appearance, they will tolerate full sun and any well-drained soil. They benefit from a spring application of fertilizer formulated for bulbs or flowering plants. The bulbs usually have a somewhat long neck but the main, round part of the bulb should be planted 3 or 4 inches below the soil surface. Space them at least six to eight inches apart, as they tend to multiply, and you don’t want to have to divide them too often.

Your Aztec lily bulbs should bloom a few months after the initial planting, assuming the bulbs were blooming-size. If they don’t bloom on time, it may be because the bulbs were not dormant, or were not dormant for a long enough period before planting.

You can induce dormancy by withholding water until the leaves turn yellow and eventually dry. Once the tops are thoroughly dry, wait another two weeks then resume watering. Fresh leaves should regrow within a few weeks and flowers will follow. By cycling periods of drying out and watering, you can induce your bulbs to flower several times per year. This is particularly easy to do when the bulbs are grown in pots but more difficult if they are in the ground.

If managing periods of watering and drying out are too much trouble for you, you can just keep them growing all year. The result will be sporadic flowering throughout the year, but no dramatic mass flowering. Regardless of the method of culture, this is a plant more gardeners should consider if they enjoy growing something a little bit different.


Master Gardener: how to grow Aztec lillies

Share this:

Q. I just bought some Aztec lilies. They came with instructions for growing them in a pot but I wonder if I can grow them in the ground since we don’t have cold winters here. I don’t want to risk killing them.

A. The Aztec lily, Sprekelia formosissima, is a member of the Amaryllis family and is actually pretty easy to grow, so I doubt that you will kill them. For readers unfamiliar with them, they are native to Mexico, Central and South America. The flowers are about five inches across, a rich red color, and rather exotic-looking, somewhat resembling orchids. The strap-like leaves are about one inch wide and 12-18 inches long.

In our climate, with relatively mild winters, Aztec Lily bulbs can be planted in the ground and remain there year-round. In colder climates such as our local mountains, they must be lifted in the fall and stored in a dormant state until they are replanted in the spring. Regardless of climate, they can always be grown in pots, as your instructions directed, the same way you would grow other amaryllis bulbs.

In coastal Southern California and inland valleys, the best time to plant Aztec lilies is fall to winter from dormant bulbs. Despite their fancy appearance, they will tolerate full sun and any well-drained soil. They benefit from a spring application of fertilizer formulated for bulbs or flowering plants. The bulbs usually have a somewhat long neck but the main, round part of the bulb should be planted 3 or 4 inches below the soil surface. Space them at least six to eight inches apart, as they tend to multiply, and you don’t want to have to divide them too often.

Your Aztec lily bulbs should bloom a few months after the initial planting, assuming the bulbs were blooming-size. If they don’t bloom on time, it may be because the bulbs were not dormant, or were not dormant for a long enough period before planting.

You can induce dormancy by withholding water until the leaves turn yellow and eventually dry. Once the tops are thoroughly dry, wait another two weeks then resume watering. Fresh leaves should regrow within a few weeks and flowers will follow. By cycling periods of drying out and watering, you can induce your bulbs to flower several times per year. This is particularly easy to do when the bulbs are grown in pots but more difficult if they are in the ground.

If managing periods of watering and drying out are too much trouble for you, you can just keep them growing all year. The result will be sporadic flowering throughout the year, but no dramatic mass flowering. Regardless of the method of culture, this is a plant more gardeners should consider if they enjoy growing something a little bit different.


Master Gardener: how to grow Aztec lillies

Share this:

Q. I just bought some Aztec lilies. They came with instructions for growing them in a pot but I wonder if I can grow them in the ground since we don’t have cold winters here. I don’t want to risk killing them.

A. The Aztec lily, Sprekelia formosissima, is a member of the Amaryllis family and is actually pretty easy to grow, so I doubt that you will kill them. For readers unfamiliar with them, they are native to Mexico, Central and South America. The flowers are about five inches across, a rich red color, and rather exotic-looking, somewhat resembling orchids. The strap-like leaves are about one inch wide and 12-18 inches long.

In our climate, with relatively mild winters, Aztec Lily bulbs can be planted in the ground and remain there year-round. In colder climates such as our local mountains, they must be lifted in the fall and stored in a dormant state until they are replanted in the spring. Regardless of climate, they can always be grown in pots, as your instructions directed, the same way you would grow other amaryllis bulbs.

In coastal Southern California and inland valleys, the best time to plant Aztec lilies is fall to winter from dormant bulbs. Despite their fancy appearance, they will tolerate full sun and any well-drained soil. They benefit from a spring application of fertilizer formulated for bulbs or flowering plants. The bulbs usually have a somewhat long neck but the main, round part of the bulb should be planted 3 or 4 inches below the soil surface. Space them at least six to eight inches apart, as they tend to multiply, and you don’t want to have to divide them too often.

Your Aztec lily bulbs should bloom a few months after the initial planting, assuming the bulbs were blooming-size. If they don’t bloom on time, it may be because the bulbs were not dormant, or were not dormant for a long enough period before planting.

You can induce dormancy by withholding water until the leaves turn yellow and eventually dry. Once the tops are thoroughly dry, wait another two weeks then resume watering. Fresh leaves should regrow within a few weeks and flowers will follow. By cycling periods of drying out and watering, you can induce your bulbs to flower several times per year. This is particularly easy to do when the bulbs are grown in pots but more difficult if they are in the ground.

If managing periods of watering and drying out are too much trouble for you, you can just keep them growing all year. The result will be sporadic flowering throughout the year, but no dramatic mass flowering. Regardless of the method of culture, this is a plant more gardeners should consider if they enjoy growing something a little bit different.


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