Sprekelia formosissima

Common Name: Aztec lily 
Type: Bulb
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Native Range: Mexico
Zone: 8 to 11
Height: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Red
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy


Best grown in evenly moist, rocky to sandy, well-draining loams in full sun. The cultural requirements of this plant are similar to those of amaryllis (genus Hippeastrum). Fully hardy in frost-free Zones 10 and above, but can also be grown in areas with colder winters down to Zone 8 if sited in a protected location and given plenty of winter mulch. Best in climates with dry winter conditions, but winter moisture can be tolerated as long as the bulbs are planted in very well-draining soil. Grow in a container as you would an amaryllis in Zones 7 and colder. Requires a relatively dry dormancy period in winter before growth is initiated in spring and regular watering can be resumed. The foliage should be left on the plants after flowering and for the duration of the growing season. The bulbs will also benefit from regular fertilizer applications during the growing season. If grown in pots, acclimatize plants in spring to outdoor conditions and then allow them to spend the duration of the growing season outdoors in full sun. Propagate through division of offsets or by seed. Does not tolerate disturbance well, so only divide and repot when absolutely necessary. Plants grown from seed may take 3-7 years to reach flowering maturity.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Sprekelia formosissima, commonly called Aztec lily or Jacobean lily, is a herbaceous, bulbous perennial native to exposed, rocky slopes and outcrops in central and southern Mexico. The flowers are held singly on sturdy, upright flowering stalks reaching up to 1' tall that appear in early spring. The blooms are made up of the six, bright crimson red, tepals (petal-like sepals) and can reach up to 6" across. The flowers are held above three to six narrow, strap-like leaves reaching up to 15" long. Plants will form small clumps from offsets and reach up to 1' wide.

The genus name Sprekelia honors Johann Heinrich von Spreckelsen (1691-1764), a German lawyer and gardener.

The specific epithet formosissima means "best formed" or "most beautiful", in reference to the showy, unusual flowers of this species.

The common name Aztec lily refers to the native range of this species and its overlap with the historic extent of the Aztec Empire. The common name Jacobean lily most likely refers to the Jacobean era of British history (1567-1625), around which time Linnaeus was first introduced to this plant. The flower may also resemble the Cross of St. James, who was the reigning monarch during the Jacobean era.


Mealy bugs can be problematic. Infection by narcissus leaf scorch, a fungal disease of bulb foliage, is possible. The disease thrives in moist, humid conditions. Remove and dispose of infected bulbs and foliage and provide proper growing conditions. Rotting of the bulbs is likely in overly moist soil, especially during the dry, winter dormancy period.


Best in a rock garden, alpine garden, or container. Can be grown as a greenhouse plant or houseplant.