Oxblood Lilies Require Patience by Yvonne Schneider

Oxblood Lilies: Plant and Forget

I admit it, I am not patient. I couldn’t wait for the temperatures to dip so I could begin the fall gardening rituals. And then I saw a White (Fragrant) Mistflower just delivered to a local nursery and had to have it. I had the perfect spot – where I had planted three pink Oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida) bulbs in the spring, and nothing was materializing.

Pink Oxblood lily

Pink Oxblood lily, Rhodophiala bifida.

As lilies go, Oxblood bulbs are the ‘plant it and forget it’ type. And I truly had until I saw the foliage popping out for the red Oxblood lilies in my perennial flower bed. And then I remembered that when I planted the pink Oxbloods, a night prowler had dug them up and I had to replant a couple of times. When the red variety began showing signs of life, and nothing for the pinks, I decided that was a failed experiment. I happily began digging up the area to plant the mistflower, when to my surprise I dug up 3 sprouting bulbs – the pink Oxbloods! In fact, now there were 5 (2 offsets/babies) and I just disturbed their peace.

Manage the Light Requirements

What I didn’t take into account was this area only receives morning sun, whereas the area with the red Oxblood lilies receive all day sun, slightly shaded by the understory of a Red Oak. If I had waited a couple more weeks, the pink Oxblood bulbs would be sprouting their foliage. At this point, I had done the damage, so decided to quickly replant all 5 bulbs in another bed that receives slightly more sun, as Oxblood lilies prefer sun or part sun.

Planting Tips

Oxblood Lily

Oxblood lilies, Rhodophiala bifida, are fall bloomers.

To plant, you need is a pair of gloves, spade, and a watering can. Oxblood lilies are planted with their top slightly exposed above the ground. Most bulbs sold are 5-7 cm (2-4 inches) in diameter. Set the bulbs in the pattern desired (it’s aesthetically pleasing to plant a grouping in odd numbers).

As with all bulbs, you can add a little bone meal or 5-10-5 fertilizer to the hole, but if you do, be sure to cover with soil prior to placing the bulb. Then replace the existing soil around the bulb, water well, and mulch around the area. If you’d like, add a stake or other indicator to remind you where the bulbs have been planted. Their necks should be slightly exposed, but if you have other plants also growing, a stake is a helpful reminder. Then let mother nature do her thing to supply required water. The Oxbloods will reward you year after year with exquisite beauty just as the summer is winding down.

Hoping for Forgiveness

Only time will tell if those pink Oxbloods will reward me for finding them a new home. Patience, I keep telling myself.

Additional Resources

October Gardening Checklist

Bulbs for Central Texas

Yvonne Schneider, guest blogger




Yvonne was a 35+year veteran in the computer and information technology industry when she retired and moved from Houston to the Austin area. In 2018, Yvonne certified as a Travis County Texas Master Gardener to follow her passion for gardening and volunteering within the community. She has spent 20+ years enjoying gardening and working with bulbs and perennials. She now tackles the challenges presented by the Austin area wildlife, drought, and limestone soil.

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