Let the rain lilies burst forth!

By Ralph E. Mitchell

The rains have finally returned to the relief of many including our plants. Rain often triggers growth and flowering as well. If you have seen rain lilies, you will know what I mean. Rain lilies have burst forth in a blaze of glory with this recent deluge of rain across our Charlotte County landscape.

There are a number of native rain lilies in Florida and others that range through Mexico, Central America and South America. There are also many cultivated types often called Zephyr lilies, fairy lilies and rain lilies. They are all bulbous plants which form clumps of thin, twelve-inch, strap-like foliage reminiscent of liriope. Over the years these clumps will enlarge and may need to be divided. Wait until they finish flowering in the fall to divide the clumps and replant them in compost-enhanced soil. Excess bulbs can also be given to a friend or neighbor as a “pass-along” plant. Plant rain lilies in full sun to part-shade as produced by the dappled shade of trees. Rain lilies also do well in pots and do especially well when pot-bound. An eight-inch pot with twelve bulbs will send up several sets of flowers over the season. Use rain lilies in rock gardens and in mass plantings for the best shows.

Probably one of the most popular rain lilies is Zephyranthes grandifolia with pink flowers. I have one clump which recently shot up nearly fifty, almost three-inch blooms! Other types available are white and yellow representing different species. Hybrids may also be available with apricot colored flowers.

You can obtain rain lilies from friends and neighbors or through various bulb companies. Keep in mind that this plant is toxic and so keep this in consideration around children and pets.

You will be pleasantly surprised when a summer rain is followed by a short-term, but glorious, living bouquet of flowers provided by the tried and true rain lily! For more information on all types of flowering bulbs suitable for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.

Resources:
Rebecca Jordi (2006) Rain Lily – Zephryanthes. Nassau County Extension – University of Florida, IFAS.
Christman, S. (2006) Zephyranthes grandifolia. Floridata.com, Tallahassee, FL
Mahr, S. (2014) Zephyranthes grandifolia. University of Wisconsin – Extension
Denton County Master Gardener Association (2017) White Rain Lily. Texas A& M AgriLife Extension.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.

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