Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
September, 2000
Regional Report

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Pink rain lily (Zephyranthes) pops out during thunderstorm season.

Showers Bring on Rain Lilies

A surprisingly delicate-looking flower pops out during the monsoon season, bringing a smile to my face. Commonly called rain lily, or sometimes fairy lily, Zephyranthes is actually a tough performer that handles desert conditions well. It's a bulb plant with deep green foliage 8 to 12 inches tall that resembles a clump of chives.

Lovely Blooms

The flowers are most commonly white, yellow, pink, or a variation on one of those colors. I chanced upon a one-gallon container of rain lilies at a garden club plant sale that was simply marked "peach." I divided the bulbs among some fellow rain lily enthusiasts, and we're all waiting to see whether those blooms will display another hue in the bulb garden. Most flowers are only the size of a quarter, although the pink (Z. grandiflora) shows off blossoms about the size of a half-dollar.

Planting Lilies

Zephyranthes grow well in a sunny location, with regular garden soil well amended with organic matter. Bulbs are tiny and round but will expand in size and number in a few years in loose soil. Plant bulbs 1 to 2 inches deep and mix a phosphorous-rich fertilizer such as bone meal into the bottom of the planting hole.

Lily Care

Although rain lilies can take full sun, I find that the foliage looks less straggly with protection from afternoon sun in the summer. If the ends of the foliage do get brown, they'll come back. Keep the soil moist and mulch the plants to provide added protection during hot temperatures. I have some in the ground and some in pots, and I move the pots into a northern exposure during summer. I find rain lilies aren't fussy and can be dug and moved around or shared with fellow gardeners.

Raining Lilies

Even though rain lilies respond well to supplemental irrigation, putting forth plenty of green shoots, they don't seem to flower unless it actually rains. Sometimes I'm startled by a stand of white rain lilies waving merrily at me when I walk out my front door after a rain. It's just another of Mother Nature's gifts to gardeners!

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