This spring I watched an unassuming clump of leaves grow and produce a really tall stem in our yard. The previous owners of our house had planted garlic in one of our raised beds, and I thought this was another one. But then the stem got so tall that I knew it couldn’t be. It spooked me a little, since it developed twisted leaves, and I kept my distance from it in case pods opened and showered me with spores to take over my body. And then, about the third week of May, the thing from outer space flowered. It had a cluster of nodding blooms that were dark pinkish-red and white-striped, on top of a 3½-foot stem. The base of the flower was clear apple green, so the look was very exotic and intriguing.

Sicilian honey lily

Plant your bulbs in fall, and enjoy this blooming conversation piece come spring.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Sicilian honey lily closeup

Sicilian honey lily has pink-and-white-striped flowers with a green base.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

My partner Mark did some searching and discovered it was Sicilian honey lily, Nectaroscordum siculum. (You Latin-name fans might also see it classified as Allium bulgaricum or Allium siculum ssp. bulgaricum.) It’s pretty unique; at least I’d never seen it before. I found out that the bulbs are easy to grow. They’re hardy in zones 4-8 and like well-drained soil and full sun. They flower in late spring.

If you want to plant your own, fall is the time to do it. Plant the bulbs 4 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart. They bloom about the same time as Dutch iris, other ornamental alliums and late daffodils. Because Sicilian honey lily is so tall, you can plant other bulbs under it, or use annuals like sweet alyssum. Or try growing the bulb with low-growing perennials like creeping veronica (Veronica).

Sicilian honey lily isn’t for everybody, so make sure it’s something you think you’d like in your garden. We love it because it’s so distinctive. I was lucky enough to find bulbs at a local store, so next year we’ll have lots more popping up. (And this time, I’ll be ready for them.)