EASY CARE FOR 9a — HURRICANE LILY

Lycoris radiata, also known as Hurricane Lily, Red Spider Lily, and sometimes Resurrection Lily, Surprise Lily, and Magic Lily is a bulb plant. It often produces a flower stalk without any foliage, magically popping up out of the ground on 1 to 2 foot scapes and unfurling into an exotic flower for two weeks. Other years it doesn’t bloom at all. A pencil-width leaf with a silver-gray stripe running down the center appears after the bloom.

Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata

 

Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata, bloom begins to unfurl
Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata, bloom begins to unfurl

 

Hurricane Lily, before and during the bloom
Hurricane Lily, before and during the bloom

Hurricane Lily blooms in August and September usually after a heavy rain much like the Rain Lily, Zephyranthes. It prefers partial shade in soil that is moist but not boggy during the bloom season. It likely will not bloom the first year planted whether new to your yard or divided and replanted elsewhere.

Hailing from China and Japan, Hurricane Lilies have naturalized throughout the southeastern United States but also grows in California. It is poisonous and probably not a good plant to have around if you have a dog or other animal prone to digging. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and convulsions.

For more information, see the University of Florida’s Solutions for Your Life.

ZONES AND PLANTING

Hurricane Lilies are winter hardy from USDA Zones 5b down to 10. Above 5b, it should be overwintered indoors. Plant bulbs 9″ apart with the top 1/4 of the bulb exposed so the flower bud can develop.

MY ZONE 9a EXPERIENCE

Hurricane Lilies are a member of the Amaryllis genus with a growing habit similar to my Amaryllis Belladonna or Naked Ladies, Lycoris squamigera, a pink flowering bulb whose foliage appears before the bloom, and my Golden Spider Lily or Golden Hurricane Lily, Lycoris aurea, whose foliage appears afterwards.

Supposedly, it is quick to form large clumps because it spends no energy producing seeds. I thought it did produce seeds when I encountered what looked like green seed pods after the bloom faded but the pods ultimately withered away. One just never knows because the Southern Rural Route orbits the Crooked Moon.

Seed-like pods on red Hurricane Lily after the bloom
Seed pods?

The most likely method to acquire any of the lycoris bulbs is as a pass-along plant or through a mail order source. Mine was acquired in Texas through friends. I planted it beneath the shade of a cypress tree. I have ignored it at all times except when it blooms. I don’t fertilize it or cover it in the winter but it is in an area that gets occasional water. In the summer, when the bulbs are dormant, the soil should be on the dry side.

It does not seem to be bothered by pests or diseases.

 

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES — PARASITES, PREDATORS & DISEASES

Monarch butterflies have a mortality rate of over 90% due to parasites, predators and diseases. A Monarch butterfly flitting through your garden is a miracle of survival. It victoriously made it through the entire life cycle — egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult. After all that striving, it will live a mere 2 to 6 weeks as an adult butterfly.

This blackened Monarch caterpillar showed up in a small patch of milkweed I provide as a host plant for monarchs.

 

I consulted my friend, Cee, the Butterfly Lady, to find out what happened and she provided me with several possibilities.

 

PARASITES

Monarchs in tropical areas have the highest rate of infection from Ophryocystis Elektroscirrha, mostly referred to as OE probably because no one can pronounce it. OE is a parasitic single cell organism infecting only milkweed butterflies in the Lepidoptera order. The most well-known of these are Monarchs, Queens and the Luna Moth.

The Tachinid Fly, another parasite, attacks anywhere from 10% to 40% of the Monarch population by laying eggs on the caterpillar. The egg hatches and the fly larva bores into the butterfly caterpillar where it becomes a maggot that feeds on the caterpillar from the inside out. Doesn’t that sound awful?

 

PREDATORS

The list of predators is long. Ants, mites, spiders, Chalcid and Trichogramma wasps, plus larval forms of other insects can attack the Monarch eggs. Birds and rodents can also attack caterpillars. As an adult, the Monarch may not make it to old age because of birds, dragonflies, mantids, parasites, wasps, rodents, and insecticides.

 

DISEASES

The two most common infections that result in “Black Death” are Pseudomonas and NPV. In both cases, the caterpillar shrivels up, turns black, and goo seeps from both ends.

Pseudomonas is a bacterial infection that likes warm, moist environments. It is found all over the world in soil, water and plants. It’s a good idea to allow your plants and soil to dry after watering to discourage development.

NPV, or Nuclear polyhedrosis virus, is most evident in areas with short or mild winters. The longer growing season allows time for NPV to spread. It causes caterpillars to crawl toward the top of the plant and then hang in an inverted V when it dies. Each caterpillar can have a billion virus particles. All that goo seeping from both ends spreads the virus.

A freeze might kill the plants on which virus particles from dying caterpillars exist but it does not kill the virus. Six hours of direct sun will kill the virus but, of course, the sun does not reach shady areas.

It’s hard to tell whether Pseudomonas, NPV or a predator killed a caterpillar because the caterpillar death often looks the same.

This is not a natural progression of a chrysalis. It became spotty, discolored and stayed that way for several days. The change to dark happens more evenly and rapidly in a healthy chrysalis. Photo by Cee.

 

More examples of infected chrysalis. Photo by Cee

THE GOOD NEWS

Despite the discouragement of parasites, predators, and diseases, the female Monarch can produce 200 to 600 eggs in her short lifetime which means the 90% mortality rate still leaves almost 10% of caterpillars becoming butterflies. When you see one of those 10% flitting about in your garden, recognize the miracle you are witnessing.

You can help the caterpillars become butterflies by making room in your yard for native plants. According to Jim McCormac, in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, “Nearly all caterpillar species shun non-native flora.”

The University of Florida offers a list of host and food plants for Florida butterflies. You can’t go wrong with a few varieties of milkweed plants which are host plants for the Monarch, Queen and Soldier/Tropical Queen butterflies.

WHAT YOUR AIR-CONDITIONING TECH MAY ASSUME YOU KNOW

I would like to educate other members of the population who did not take plumbing and air-conditioning classes.  If your outdoor air-conditioning unit has a condensation drain, check it yearly. Make sure it is not clogged by roots, leaves and dirt. Failure to do so can cost you a heart-stopping chunk of change.

AIR-CONDITIONING TECH’S FIRST VISIT

This is what my condensation drain looked like on the air-conditioning tech’s first visit. The drain pipe was almost buried but he didn’t seem to notice.

AIR-CONDITIONING TECH’S SECOND VISIT

After the tech’s second visit, where he got down to the business of fixing what was actually wrong, my brother installed a 1-1/2 inch PVC pipe under the AC drain. He cut a hole in the PVC pipe where it meets up with the condensation drain and placed a piece of screen over that hole. A PVC end cap closed up the PVC pipe at that end.

This next photo is the other end. It was cut at an angle and left exposed for drainage purposes:

THEY ASSUME YOU KNOW

I learned about condensation drains the hard way. As is often the case, my 5-year-old Bryant air-conditioner (a Carrier product) stopped cooling in 93 degree weather. I am always so excited when it does that. Well, maybe not. On the first trip, the tech replaced the capacitor because some kind of measurement was at 43.5 and needed to be 45. Better to replace it than pay for another service call. The unit then kept me in cool comfort for 8 days. It chose to stop cooling on a day that I was not home. I couldn’t get it serviced until the next day.

On the second trip, the tech decided that my fan blower broke because roots had grown over the condensation drain. Huh? Yeah, that was my reaction, too.

Without proper drainage, condensation remained inside the unit to splash up on the blower each time the unit came on. In other words, it was my fault. It had just gone out of warranty, anyway.  I was most unhappy that my AC company, who installed the $3700 unit five years ago, never mentioned that I should monitor the condensation drain to insure it remained clutter free. When I mentioned this aggravation to my brother, he said they assume you know this. Well, gee, it is kind of obvious in hindsight now that I know what that small PVC pipe was supposed to do. However, never once in high school or college was I offered air-conditioning or plumbing classes. Thus, I didn’t realize the white PVC pipe was a drain. As a result of my ignorance, these two trips from the AC tech cost me $1600. Now, run outside and check your condensation drain, okay?

 

BUBBA’S BABY BIRDS

Bubba found another crop of baby birds in his garage on a shelf, among the nuts and bolts. Bubba thinks they might be wrens. Photo by Bubba.

MY CLEAN DIRT WAS NOT SO CLEAN

Sometimes our clean dirt is not so clean. I mix purchased potting/garden soil and purchased peat to make new, clean potting soil that is ready to use. In other words, it all came out of a bag. No worms. My container of choice is a recycle bin the City no longer wants us to use. Of course, it has no lid but I never gave that a thought because it was in my greenhouse.

My failure to think about a lid resulted in an incident in the greenhouse. I was attempting a quickie potting of a Torenia plant I found growing behind the greenhouse. My garden gloves were in the house but I had a small, metal trowel for spooning some of that clean dirt into a ceramic planter. It was going too slow. I tossed the trowel aside and reached in for handfuls at a time. This was great for a few handfuls. Then, as I reached deeper to pull up a new handful, I felt something round and more solid than potting soil. I screamed when a blue striped skink flew out of my hands. I screamed some more when it started clawing the slick side of the bin. More unintelligible sounds filled the air as I wrestled with the heavy blue bin trying to tip it so the skink could get out. Finally, the skink was on the floor of the greenhouse looking at me. That’s when I heard “Aack!”, “Aack!”  I’m really not sure which one of us was making that noise. Me, or the skink, as he realized my bare hands had been on him.

Skink
Photo by James DeMer/Pixabay

Needless to say, I wasted no time in ordering myself a big, honking trowel. No way was I ever again reaching into a pile of dirt, even clean dirt, with my bare hands.  Despite my best efforts with a ruler, this photo simply does not convey the sheer size of this thing. My entire hand will fit inside the silver trowel.

 

Fiskars Big Grip trowel
Big, honking trowel