by Kyle Sweet, The Sanctuary Golf Club, Florida Master Naturalist
Southwest Florida boasts such a wide variety of plants that everywhere I look I seem to be trying to figure out just what exactly that plant is. The wide variety is based on our moderate temperatures, sandy, well-draining soils and subtle changes in elevation all throughout our area. Just a few feet of elevation change can make the difference between the establishment and survival of dry-loving cactus and a water loving plant such as the Spider lily.
The Spider lily, Hymenocallis latifolia, is a Florida native that has shiny dark green, strap-like foliage and a delicate, fragrant white bloom that is long-lasting and can be enjoyed for weeks. The flowers emerge in both summer and fall at the ends of long stalks, coming from the center of the plant. The plant emerges from a bulb and reaches heights of 2 to 3 feet. They can easily incorporated into the landscape and will thrive in full sun to partial shade conditions. It can handle drought conditions but thrives in wet conditions, thus the other name it’s called, Swamp lily. Whether in drier or wetter conditions, humidity is the key to the Spider lily and it’s right at home as a Florida native in our high humidity climate.
The Spider Lily cannot handle cold temperatures and will be limited to areas where frost won’t occur. In South Florida, frost seldom occurs along the coast but can be a factor further inland. They are very versatile and can be planted in pots that could be moved inside and outside if the need to protect from cold weather is necessary.
The Spider lily reseeds itself readily and will create a solid mass planting rapidly following planting on 3-to-5-foot centers. Propagation of this lily is done with splitting bulbs, but be careful as the bulbs are poisonous. If working with these bulbs, be careful to keep away from pets and make sure to use gloves. Be careful in handling the bulbs and eating and drinking as to not ingest any fluids from the bulbs. These plants are readily available through nurseries in south Florida, eliminating the need to cultivate to enjoy.
I see these Spider lilies all around the islands and throughout South Florida. They are native, attractive, low maintenance and provide great texture in the landscape and you might find that your home is a great home for this plant too!