I couldn’t decide which photo I liked better so I decided to post both of them. Chinese Sacred Lilies are neither from China nor lilies. Rather they are Narcissus tazetta v. orientalis and often forced for winter bloom like their cousins the paperwhites. Several people have written to me that they are associated with the Chinese new year, so that may be where we derive the “Chinese” in its common name. Elsewhere I’ve read that Chinese immigrants brought the bulbs to the US in the 1800s. Before that, however, they travelled along the Silk Road from Spain to China.
The individual flowers are about twice as large as the flowers of paperwhites. And, unlike the musky scent of some paperwhites which many people find offensive, the scent of Chinese Sacred lilies is deliciously citrus-y.
I have not found them to be good subjects for the garden, as Scott Ogden in Garden Bulbs for the South, suggests. Although the foliage comes back every year, they rarely flower in my Austin garden. I suspected that they require temperatures a bit colder than Austin. So last year I dug up a clump and chilled them for 8 weeks before replanting last month. These that are flowering are from the replanted bulbs I chilled. The clumps of unchilled bulbs are up but show no hint of flowers.