The Jersey lily flower is a late season plant which brings exotic elegance to the garden. Colorful and fragrant, these attractive plants are as popular with pollinators as they are with gardeners.
A versatile plant, you can also grow the Jersey lily flower in pots either outside or in your home.
If you would like to learn how to add these colorful late season blooms to your home or garden, this guide is designed to take you through everything that you need to know.
What is the Jersey Lily Flower?
The Jersey lily flower (Amaryllis belladonna) is a perennial flowering bulb. In its native South Africa the plant is a common sight on the open grasslands and hillsides of the Cape province.
Interestingly, Amaryllis belladonna is one of two species in the Amaryllis genus; the other is Amaryllis Paradisicola. Amaryllis plants are bulbous plants that produce bell shaped blooms with a sweet, fruity aroma and green leaves.
A unique feature of this plant is that the leaves don’t emerge until every flower has faded from the plant. This habit of producing blooms on bare stems has given the plant its other common name of naked lady.
Blooms form on bare stems.
Reaching a height of 1 to 2 ft and spreading 6 inches wide, the Jersey lily flower rarely outgrows its position. Depending on the variety the flower can be pink, red or white in color. With the right care the blooms can be encouraged to last for up to a month.
A slow growing plant, it can take between 5 and 10 years for the plant to reach its mature height.
Depending on the location, the Jersey lily blooms anywhere from July to October.
A popular ornamental plant in many parts of the world, the naked lady plant copes well with temperature extremes. In its natural habitat the summer sun bakes the dormant bulbs before they are awoken by the fall rain. It is only after this summer dormancy and baking that trumpet-shaped blooms emerge.
In addition to bringing late season color and fragrance to the garden, the Jersey lily flower is also popular with pollinators. A versatile plant, you can grow these attractive ornamental specimens in mixed flower beds, rockeries, gravel gardens or in pots on patios and verandas.
Despite the name, this plant is not to be confused with the Amaryllis plant that is often sold at Christmastime. Those are hippeastrum plants and are not true members of the Amaryllis plant family.
Warning. Every variety of Amaryllis bulb is toxic to both humans and animals. Consuming the bulbs can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If animals consume the bulbs they may become unwell and lethargic. To protect yourself wear gloves when handling the plants and wash your hands afterwards. If you have pets or young children, position the bulbs in pots or planters out of their reach.
Plant wisely, Amaryllis is toxic.
Different Varieties of Jersey Lily Flower
As these plants grow in popularity, more and more cultivars are steadily entering the market. The different cultivars all share similar growth habits and care preferences.
The following are some of the most eye-catching cultivars currently available:
- Cape Town, named after the Jersey lily flower’s home province, Cape Town produces bright red blooms,
- Elator is popular for its deep pink flowers,
- Barberton reliably fills fall beds with dark pink flowers,
- Hathor is an eye-catching cultivar thanks to its white blooms which develop from a pink bud,
- Johannesburg, another cultivar named after a South African city, Johannesburg produces eye-catching rose-pink blooms with white throats.
Where to Grow A Jersey Lily Flower
Most varieties of this plant are hardy in USDA Planting Zones 7 to 10. Growers in colder areas can cultivate the plants in pots or in greenhouses.
A greenhouse is a great place to grow the bulbs in cooler areas because, while outside temperatures fluctuate they rarely stay consistently warm enough to bake the bulbs. This is necessary if you want blooms to form.
Planting in pots in a greenhouse, where temperatures are consistently warmer than outside, helps to bake the bulbs. Once your Jersey lily starts to bloom it can be moved outside. Placing the pots on a Gartol Metal Plant Caddy With Wheels enables you to easily move heavy pots around your garden.
During the growing season the temperature should be warm; a temperature of 70 to 75 ℉ is ideal. During the winter a cooler temperature of 50 to 55 ℉ is advised. While they can tolerate temperatures below this, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can damage or kill the bulbs.
Avoid planting the bulbs in exposed areas or frost pockets. Instead try to plant the bulbs somewhere that is protected from harsh winters and frosts. The ideal position is in the shelter of a warm south-facing wall. Here the bulbs clump up nicely. West or south facing floral beds are also good choices.
Your chosen growing position should enjoy at least 4 hours of sunlight every day.
While they are pleasingly frost hardy bulbs the Jersey lily doesn’t like to sit in wet soil. Working in compost, sand, loam or even chalk can all help to improve the drainage of heavy soils.
The Jersey lily flower does well in soils that are either neutral or only slightly acidic or alkaline. In general, these plants will grow in most soils as long as it isn’t too extreme.
If you are growing in pots as a houseplant, place your Jersey lily near a sunny window.
Where to Source Jersey Lily Bulbs
You can purchase Jersey lily bulbs from most garden stores and plant nurseries. If you are ordering online your bulbs may only be dispatched during the growing season.
When selecting your bulbs, try to select large, firm bulbs that are visibly healthy and blemish free.
As well as planting bulbs, you can grow Jersey lily plants from seed but this is a long process. It can take many years for the seeds to grow into bulbs that are large enough to set bloom. An easier option is to divide an established bulb clump. I will explain how to do this later in the article.
How to Plant Jersey Lily Bulbs
Plant your Jersey lily bulbs in late winter or early spring. Try to plant as early in the year as possible; as soon as your soil is warm and workable and any danger of frost has passed.
You can keep your soil warm during the winter months by covering with a layer of mulch or ExtraEasy Landscape Fabric; this has the added bonus of deterring weeds. Keeping the soil covered during the winter enables you to start planting early in spring or late winter.
Planting your Jersey lily bulbs as early as possible gives them lots of time to settle and develop a healthy root system before blooming. If you plant too late the bulbs won’t set bud until the following year.
Before you plant your bulbs, take the time to weed your soil and work in any necessary amendments. A heavy, poor soil can be improved by working in compost or grit. As well as improving drainage, compost or organic matter also helps to enrich the soil. If your soil is very heavy or poorly draining, planting the bulbs on a mound of grit can help to prevent soaking and rotting the bulbs.
After amending and weeding the soil, it is time to plant your bulbs. Dig a hole in the soil just large enough to hold the bulb. When placed in the hole the top of the bulb should sit just below soil level.
In colder areas, plant the bulbs a little deeper; around 4 to 5 inches deep. This helps to protect the bulbs from the cold weather. In warmer areas plant close to the soil surface. When fully planted the top of the neck should be visible above the soil.
Backfill the hole and water well.
Space the bulbs 6 to 12 inches apart.
Planting in Pots
Planting in pots is exactly the same as planting in the ground. Your chosen pot should have drainage holes in the bottom, if not drill some in before planting, and be large enough to hold the bulbs.
A single large bulb sits in a 6 to 9 inch diameter pot while a collection of 3 to 4 smaller bulbs will grow to fill a 10 to 12 inch pot. Make sure your pots are also deep enough to hold the plants; when in full bloom the Jersey lily can become top heavy.
Fill the pot with well-draining potting soil. Plant as described above, in small holes just below the soil surface. The tip of the bulb should stick out above soil level. After planting, water well.
How to Divide and Repot
These plants are clump forming bulbs. This means that after a few years of steady growth the bulbs will start to take up all the room in the pot. One of the most visible signs that your bulbs are in need of repotting are flower production diminishing.
Bulb clumps growing in the ground will also become crowded. Again, the most visible sign of this is fewer blooms forming.
In general you need to repot Jersey lily bulbs every 3 to 4 years. In the ground divisions can be made every 4 to 5 years.
To remove the bulbs from the pot, run a knife around the edge of the pot to loosen the soil. This enables you to remove the plant without damaging the root ball.
Bulbs growing in the ground can be carefully dug up with a hand trowel.
Gently separate the bulbs. They should come away from the main clump easily. If you have any difficulty, gently twist the bulb.
If you are replanting in pots, half fill the pot with fresh soil and replant the bulb or bulbs. Backfill and water well. The other bulbs can be planted in other pots or gifted to friends. If you are planting in the ground, replant the divisions as described above. Remember not to plant the bulbs too deeply, the pointed end should be level with, or slightly above, soil level.
Dividing mature clumps not only helps to rejuvenate mature plants, it is also a reliable propagation method. Plant and care for the young bulbs as if they were larger plants, in a few years they will be sufficiently mature to start blooming.
How to Care for the Jersey Lily Flower
In a favorable spot, these are largely low maintenance plants. Whichever variety that you choose to plant, care and maintenance is largely the same.
When to Water
As with many bulb flowering plants, the most important thing is to avoid overwatering your Jersey lily bulbs.
During the growing season water often enough to keep the soil evenly moist. How often depends on how much rain you get and whether you are growing the ground, planters or pots. Plants growing in pots require more frequent watering than those in the ground.
Don’t worry about underwatering the plants. Once established these are fairly drought tolerant plants that are able to cope for periods without moisture.
Water regularly to prolong flowering.
When the plants are dormant, during the winter months, there is no need to water unless the soil is completely in danger of drying out. Plants growing outside will get more than enough moisture from winter rainfall.
Start watering as soon as new growth emerges and continue until the plants die back at the end of the season. If you are concerned about the amount of water your garden needs, learning how to harvest rainwater is a great way to keep your plants hydrated and reduce your water usage.
How to Fertilize
If you have planted in rich soil, there is no need to fertilize. However many plants, particularly those growing in pots, can benefit from a regular dose of phosphorus rich fertilizer.
A regular dose of liquid fertilizer can be applied during the growing season. Start feeding your plants when new foliage emerges and continue to apply until the leaves start to die back. For the best results feed your plants two to four times a month.
How much fertilizer you need to apply, and how frequently, depends on the product that you are using. This information will be detailed on the packet label.
A handful of Espoma Bonemeal Fertilizer can be applied to the soil in spring. Again this helps to promote healthy growth and flowering.
Pruning Jersey Lily Plants
A low maintenance plant, there is no need to prune the Jersey lily flower.
If you don’t want seeds to form, deadhead the spent flower with sharp, clean garden scissors.
Deadheading also encourages the plants to focus their efforts on storing energy in the bulb helping them to survive the winter months and flower again the following year.
How to Overwinter
The Jersey lily flower is hardy down to USDA Planting Zone 7. Unless your garden experiences particularly cold winters the bulbs can be protected by covering with a straw or organic mulch.
In colder areas the bulbs are best lifted in the fall and stored indoors overwinter before replanting in the spring. To store your bulbs, cut back the flower stalks as soon as they start to fade. Allow the leaves to remain on the plant until they start to wither.
As the temperatures start to fall, carefully dig up the bulbs and store in a clean pot with plenty of drainage holes. The bulbs can be stored outside in a sheltered position with some sun exposure. Move inside or into a greenhouse if temperatures fall and a frost threatens.
Once the last frost has passed and spring temperatures start to warm, plant in a full sun position.
The Jersey lily flower is a great statement plant, standing out and drawing attention to your flower beds. It also works well as a companion plant.
When planting a mixed flower bed try to group together plants that have similar growth and care needs. This makes cultivating a healthy garden a lot easier. The best companion plant for the Jersey lily flower is other plants that are native to either South Africa or similar climates.
The Jersey lily flower is also good alongside aromatic herbs such as lavender and rosemary. Here the plants combine to create a fragrant floral combination that draws scores of pollinators to the garden.
When planting with other plants, make sure that your Jersey lily plants are not shaded out by bigger plants during the summer months. The dormant Jersey lily bulbs need to bake in the sun; this helps them to store the necessary energy to produce a floral display.
Common Pests and Diseases
In the right position and with the correct care the Jersey lily flower is largely problem free.
Too much water can rot the bulbs. To prevent this, water only when the soil starts to dry out. A soil moisture sensor is a good investment if you struggle to work out when to water. Working sand or compost into the soil also helps to improve drainage.
If you are growing Jersey lily flower bulbs in pots, make sure the pots have lots of drainage holes. Remember, during wet spells you don’t need to water the bulbs as frequently.
Bulb rot, which is often the result of overwatering or fungal growth, can be treated with the application of a fungicide spray. Sterilizing the soil can prevent fungal rots from spreading around your garden. If the bulb
is too soft or damaged it should be discarded.
Exposure to too much light can cause leaf burn or scorching. While a sunny spot is preferred, try to plant
somewhere that enjoys a little shelter from the direct afternoon sun.
Slugs can target both the foliage and flower of the Jersey lily. Check your plants every evening, handpicking and disposing of any slugs you may find. If slugs are a problem in your garden, our guide to getting rid of slugs is packed with useful solutions and advice.
Caterpillars may also chew the leaves and blooms. Again, regularly inspect the plants and remove any caterpillars with tweezers. You may also want to wear work gloves to protect your skin.
The large narcissus bulb fly can sometimes lay eggs in your Jersey lily bulbs. However this is unlikely to happen if your bulbs are firm and healthy.
Indoor bulbs can fall victim to mite infestations. Again, check the foliage regularly and treat infestations by wiping neem oil or soapy water onto the leaves.
If left untreated bulb mites can stunt growth. Often attacking damaged bulbs, you can protect your flowering bulbs by keeping them healthy and caring for them correctly, avoiding potentially serious issues such as water stress.
Flowers may not form if the bulbs don’t experience a period of hot weather.
Remember the plants need to experience a hot, dormant dry spell during the summer months, effectively baking the bulbs. If they don’t enjoy this warm dormancy, flowers may not form.
Easy to grow and surprisingly adaptable, the Jersey lily flower can happily grow in many homes and gardens. Why not add some of these exotic plants to your flower beds?
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.