December 21st, 2007
Narcissus Chinese Sacred Lily

Chinese Sacred Lily
2007-12-21. Chinese Sacred Lily

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.

Chinese Sacred Lily

by M Sinclair Stevens

7 Responses to post “Narcissus Chinese Sacred Lily”

  1. From Carol:

    Those are pretty… they remind me of spring.

    I read online the article in the local paper about winter gardening in Austin. Good quotes from some of my favorite bloggers.

    (sheepish grin) Wow! You’re fast. That article doesn’t even come out in the print edition until Saturday. — mss

  2. From Pam/Digging:

    They’re awfully pretty (both shots), but I won’t be planting any if they require chilling for a good show of blooms.

    I so prefer Chinese Sacred Lilies to standard paperwhites that I’m going to do some more experimentation. I consider the N. tazetta group the first flowers of the new season, so I really look forward to them. Maybe I should try buying new bulbs, too. — mss

  3. From Dawn:

    Beautiful! It seems to me that your garden is always full of blooms, Ms. M. I’m in awe, dear lady. 🙂

    That’s what makes an online garden so fulfilling; one can focus and zoom in on the excitement. In real life this single spathe looks pretty insignificant and lonely. — mss

  4. From Ki:

    I like the second photo better but the closeup reveals the inner structure of the flowers better. Wonderful experiment in chilling the bulbs.

    I like close ups because I often see so much more in a photograph than I can in person with my fading eyesight. But I also like having carpet of sweet alyssum in the background to represent the setting of the flower. For years, I’ve typically picked on shot to go with each post. But I notice that the most popular bloggers (popularity evidenced by number of comments) tend to have a much higher ratio of photographs to text. — mss

  5. From Nan Ondra (Pennsylvania):

    Narcissus at Christmas–outside! What a treat to see, and definitely worth the effort, I’d say. Thanks for sharing, mss–and happy holidays to you!

    And our best wishes for the new year, to you, Nan! — mss

  6. From buy klonopin uk:

    Very nice info and very nice site! Where did you get the template?

    I designed it. — mss

  7. From Angela - Oviedo, FL:

    Thanks for posting your experiement results! I’m in FL and planted my chinese sacred lilies last year after reading Scott Ogden’s book. No blooms last year, and although the foliage is nice and lush, looks to be no blooms this year either. Last year was record cold for here – I got to 23 degrees. So maybe these will never bloom for me without forcing. Thanks so much for the info! Have you found any narcissus that bloom well for you without chilling? Last year Grand Primo bloomed well for me (first year in ground), I’m waiting this year to see if they bloom – they are just emerging.