As I have been moving my garden I am learning a great deal about mature plants and their reaction to being disturbed. I have had a great deal of experience with moving plants and marvel at just how well plants adapt both above ground and below ground. The way I move my garden is to dig like plants. Recently my dig saw me digging up all of my Lycoris squamigera, aka Pink or Naked Ladies, or Resurrection Lilies. I dug over 150 and the job was ever so rewarding. Especially when you look to buy these expensive bulbs online and find they start at the very pricey amount of $5 per bulb! That means I dug about $800 worth of bulbs. I think these will become part of stock when I open a nursery on my land--one day.
Coincidentally I am also digging daffodils (Narcissus species) because these bulbs emerge the same time as the Lycoris bulbs. The foliage of daffodils and Pink lady bulbs not only emerges at about the same time (Pink lady bulbs comes up a wee bit later than daffodil foliage) but the foliage of the two kinds of bulbs is very similar. If you are not attuned to the difference you might be quick to think that Pink Lady foliage is daffodil foliage. You will be sorely disappointed when that foliage produces no blooms in the spring time. Let me outline the differences of the two bulbs I observed in my garden.
Pink Lady foliage is rounded and generally larger than daffodil foliage. You can clearly see this when looking at the tips of the foliage of the Pink Lady bulb (on the left) and the 'Ice Follies' daffodil (on the right. I purposely chose a large flowering daffodil for comparison purposes to the Pink Lady foliage. Obviously daffodil foliage is varied but generally all daffodil bulbs produce a pointed leaf whereas the Pink Lady foliage will be rounded to oblong on the end of the leaf.
Another huge difference is the size of the bulbs. Pink Lady bulbs can get quite large when mature. I dug a wide variety of sizes of Pink Lady bulbs. They ranged in size from a diameter of six inches to a diameter of 1/2 inch. The smaller bulbs were generally offsets or bulbs that had not been in place for more than one or two years. You can kind of determine if a bulb is a daffodil or Pink Lady simply looking at the size, but if in doubt there is one very telling clue that can help you decide the difference. You can see it in the above and below pictures.
The major difference is that the Pink Lady bulbs will simultaneously put out multiple leaf stalks whereas the daffodil bulbs will put out only one leaf stalk per bulb. The bulb on the right looks like it has multiple leaf stalks but there are actually two bulbs there that are attached. The Pink Lady bulb in the center has many leaf stalks but only one bulb. Additionally, the leaves that emerge from the Pink Lady bulbs are all fairly uniform in size, color, and texture whereas daffodil foliage may emerge at different times and be different lengths.
Another key difference in the bulbs is the size of the roots. The Pink Lady bulbs have larger and fatter roots. These roots can extend to 4" or more. The daffodils have roots that are finer. Sometimes when daffodils grow abundantly and get crowded the bulbs can develop contractile roots. These contractile roots look similar to the Pink lady roots in that they are large, but these roots will also be joined by regular fine roots so they are not to be confused with the Pink Lady roots. The contractile roots are to pull the bulb down deeper in to the soil. I have found this phenomena quite frequently in my efforts to move my garden but simply haven't taken a picture yet.
A little note on designing with Lycoris squamigera bulbs. In days past it seemed the likely spot for these bulbs was the lawn. Even today I see large groups growing in the lawn. I think perhaps this was because the foliage would die down by the time the lawn needed to be mowed therefore not causing problems in the lawn. Plus, since the foliage died down if you planted these bulbs in a garden you would therefore have a blank spot unless you over planted the bulb with another plant. You have to chose carefully if you decide to over plant these bulbs. I think the lawn is about the worst place for these bulbs because inevitably the person mowing the lawn will not be paying attention in early August when the flower scapes emerge. And guess what will happen? Your flowers will be mowed down and you will never get to enjoy the beautiful and fragrant flowers. Like all flowers I plant in my garden I tend to mass my flowers. These bulbs look great in natural settings in open shade or full sun-massed in groups of five or more. Be sure to space the bulbs at least 6"-8" apart. I like to plant mine where I can enjoy their summer show but where they will not interfere with the garden looks at other times of the year. I have transplanted about 100 of these beautiful bulbs to a 14' diameter round garden on my farm that surrounds a 'Calloway' crabapple. I planted a double row of them in the outer two feet of the circle. The flowers will make a spectacular edging when they bloom later this summer. I plan to plant mouse eared coreopsis over my bulbs or I can easily plant annuals over the bulbs this spring. A favorite combination of mine is to plant sprigs of 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia over these bulbs. 'Diamond Frost' is an awesome annual in our area and looks fabulous with these Pink Lady blooms during the summer. In my case I am leaning toward the mouse eared coreopsis because I am trying to reduce maintenance in the garden and planting annuals each year can be labor intensive. I have read online that you can over plant Lycoris bulbs with things like vinca or ivy. I would never ever recommend this because those two vines will form such a solid mass that the Lycoris will have a hard time popping through the foliage, not to mention both of these vines tend to take over. They are both no nos in my garden and garden designs. Other perennials I think you could successfully over plant Lycoris bulbs with include: perennial geraniums (Geranium species), coreopsis (lower growing types), and perhaps echinacea....
in the garden....