When can I divide fall-blooming bulbs like oxblood lily?
Fall blooming bulbs like oxblood lilies and Lycoris (spider lilies) are such a treat. But what if we need to move them?
The time for any major maintenance of flowering bulbs is AFTER they’ve flowered and gone dormant. So a good rule of thumb is to watch for the foliage to yellow and die back before you dig and divide them.
Since oxblood lilies are hardy to zone 6 and we’re in much warmer zone 8 here in Central Texas, these plants may stay green all winter long. If so, be patient, perhaps even waiting until early spring to interrupt them.
Dividing will refresh these show-stopping beauties, reinvigorating their capacity to flower. But you might notice that the first season after transplanting you get fewer or no flowers at all. That’s because after division, the bulbs will need a little time to concentrate on vegetative growth, settling in, making new roots, and producing lots of green growth, before they expend precious energy on making flowers.
Most fall-flowering bulbs only need to be divided about every five years or so, so don’t be in any hurry for this task. If the clustered colonies of bulbs become too crowded, flowering may be inhibited, so if you can’t remember when you planted your oxblood lilies, watch for that sign instead and divide them once you’ve noticed a decline in their floral display.
When dividing, you’ll want to use a large garden spade, but be careful not to puncture the bulbs. This might seem tricky, but shouldn’t be too hard if you back away from the foliage by about six inches or so, turning up the soil and pulling the bulbs to the surface without damaging them. Separate the bulbs into smaller clumps, or even individual bulbs, and then transplant or give away the rest.
If you must dig up earlier due to a move or landscape work, it’s okay.