How Naked Lady Flower Bulbs Got Their Spicy Nickname (And Where To Plant Them)

The naked lady flower (Amaryllis belladonna) features showy, lily-like blooms that emit a pleasant fragrance. Although they're sometimes referred to as belladonna lilies or March lilies, they're not a part of the lily (Liliaceae) family and are instead in the Amaryllidaceae family tree. Their bright tubular displays are attractive to beneficial insects and hummingbirds, making them the perfect fit for those who want to bring more pollinators into their yard and garden. But their somewhat risqué nickname also stands out!

You may feel a bit awkward walking into a garden center and asking for a bunch of naked ladies for your garden. No need to worry, though; they're popular enough that a garden professional can point you in the right direction (and likely knows how their unique title came to be.) So, how did they get their spicy nickname? While there are many plants with common names representing their appearance, such as bleeding hearts, it may seem like these flowers don't quite fit the category. However, when you take the entire plant into consideration, the label makes more sense. Naked lady flowers get their spicy common name from the way their blooms appear once the foliage dies back, leaving bare or "naked" stems.

About the naked lady flower name

These unique plants produce green, strap-shaped leaves in the winter and spring. Once they fade in the summer, the stalk grows sans foliage, and clusters of pink flowers emerge from the top. Because most flowers in your garden are well-clothed with fashionable leaf attire, the leafless stems give them a distinct appearance. Despite the absence of extra greenery, their showy blooms are enough to make eye-catching additions to your garden. As a bonus, they go dormant in the winter, so you can enjoy their return for years to come. Just apply a layer of protective mulch when the weather cools down.

The sturdy stems of naked lady flowers make them great cut flowers, so you can fill your home with their aromatic blooms. However, it's important to note that this species contains lycorine, which is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Although the bulbs contain the highest concentration of the toxin, all parts of the plant are poisonous when ingested. There aren't many other downsides to these low-maintenance and deer-resistant beauties.

One thing you should know before planting Amaryllis bulbs is the right time of year to do so. These South African natives need warm weather, so only plant them once there's no danger of frost. Check the ground temperature, ensuring it's at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit before sticking them in the dirt. 

Where to plant naked lady flower bulbs

The vibrant, tubular blooms are ideal if you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden while filling your yard with a pleasant fragrance each summer. However, you should only leave your flowers outside in hardiness zones 8 through 10. If sowing directly into the ground, place them 6 to 12 inches apart in late summer or early fall when they're dormant. Cover them with soil, leaving the top third sticking out. When green growth emerges, keep the soil evenly moist but not too wet. Within a few weeks, you should see a flower stem pop out, and they typically bloom within 10 weeks of planting. They prefer well-draining sandy or loamy soil with a neutral pH of 6.0-8.0.

If you're growing your flowers indoors, choose an area in your home that shines direct sunlight on your naked lady flower in the morning but offers bright, indirect light during afternoon hours. They like to be somewhat crowded in containers, so choose one that's roughly an inch bigger than the bulb, typically 5-7 inches. Keep the soil evenly moist as you would with outdoor plants. You can grow your flowers in pots inside year-round and may even get to experience beautiful blooms in your home throughout fall and winter. Keep them in a cool, dry area without any sunlight, and stop watering your plants 10 to 12 weeks before you want new flowers to emerge. For example, if you want to add a romantic touch with pink flowers for Valentine's Day, start your bulbs around New Year's Day.