Oxblood Lilies for the San Antonio Botanical Gardens

There are lilies…..and then there are Oxblood Lilies.

Honestly, it is hard to describe the magical experience at seeing your first Oxblood bloom. I was totally smitten with these flowers 28 years ago, and I am still in love. Oxblood Lilies appear almost overnight with the first rain of Fall, after a long, dry summer. It is hard to imagine anything surviving a Texas drought, but these bulbs are tough….just like their early German homesteaders that brought the lilies to Texas.

It has been a beautiful Spring. Wildflowers are still blooming, Daylilies are bright and colorful and the veggies (and weeds) are growing by the minute. My Oxblood Lilies are almost completely dormant during this time of year. We have had so much rain in June, that the lilies are holding on for a few more carefree, spring-like days before going completely dormant. Some gardeners worry that something is wrong with their lilies. I’ve received a lot of frantic emails from garden friends about “killing” their lilies. It is nice to be reassured that you can’t kill Oxblood Lilies unless you pour gasoline over them and light them on fire. You can also freeze them to death by leaving them above ground during a sub-zero Artic Blast. Other than that, Oxbloods are amazingly tough and in it for the long haul.

Summer is the season of rest for the Fall Bulbs. Oxblood Lilies, Spider Lilies and Sternbergia will enjoy their hot, dry summer season, waiting patiently under ground for the first rain of September. It is always best to keep their sleeping quarters dry. Fall bulbs do not like wet feet while they sleep. In fact, too much water during the summer months will inhibit the Fall bloom.

If you are unfamiliar with how to grow flower bulbs, I’m always eager to help. The best advice I can give you is this……

Always follow the number one, most important, golden rule of flower bulbs…. “Do not cut the foliage back, no matter what.” The foliage is the energy for the flower bloom for the following year. What you do today affects next year’s bloom. Some braid the scraggly foliage as it dries. I used to do that in my early days of when I had under a thousand flower bulbs in my gardens. Now, I’m just lucky to remember to tie my shoes in the morning. 🙂 Gardeners are masters at “Doing today for what will bloom tomorrow”, but Heirloom Bulbers are even a step beyond. We are in it for a lifetime. Sometimes Heirloom Bulbs will actually sulk when relocated. I still have yet to see my large, white tropical spider lilies bloom since the great migration from the flooded house. I suppose if I was 80 years old, and my original homestead was getting bull-dozed down, I’d get a little grumpy too. Be patient with these old lads and lassies…..their blooms are worth the wait.

Tomorrow, I will be digging up and saying goodbye to 200 beloved Oxblood Lilies. These lilies will be traveling to the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, and lovingly placed in their historic Hill Country gardens. These particular bulbs are part of Miss Margaret’s Oxblood Lily collection. The original story about these bulbs were published a few years back in Heirloom Gardener Magazine. “Saving the Gardens for Miss Margaret” chronicles the preservation of these old bulbs before the historic house was finally torn down. I am thrilled for these bulbs to be part of the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. I think Miss Margaret would be pleased. Remember, all that is dug and planted is never lost.

Happy Gardening, my friends!