This has been a most unusual July at the White House. Early on, we had a week where the high temperatures for the days stayed in the 80’s and the night time temps were in the 60s. These amazingly pleasant temps were brought to us by an unusual cold front that dipped down from Canada. Along with the cooler weather, the front brought rain! Twice during that blessed cool spell our rain gauge captured a ½ inch of rain. If an inch of rain and nights in the 60’s weren’t enough to make us forget that this really was Texas in July, this past Sunday lightening crashed, thunder rolled and the heavens opened up and delivered us another inch and a half of rain!
While all of this rain has been much appreciated by all the plants in our yard, the ones that have shown their appreciation the most are the rain lilies. Sally and I recently visited my dear friend Cynthia Mueller in College Station. As I have mentioned before, Cynthia is one of the most knowledgeable and generous plant people I have ever met. She is also a lover of these amazingly tough and beautiful flowers.
Thanks to these summer showers, Cynthia’s gardens were bursting with the color and smells of these utterly reliable plants. Even though these flowers are called lilies, they actually belong to the Amaryllis family. Rain lily is really a generic term that applies to approximately 70 species of plants that belong in three different genus: Zephyranthes, Habranthus and Cooperia.
While rain lilies come from many families, they all share a few traits that make them great plants for the Texas gardener. First, they are all native to the Americas so they do extremely well in zones 8 through 10. Another thing that I like about them is the fact that they are bulbs. Bulbing plants are hardy plants. However, the absolute best thing about rain lilies is their durability. They truly are a plant that you can plant, forget and enjoy more and more with each passing year.
Rainlilies are becoming a little more popular in the nursery trade. Since they are small, durable and adaptable they are great for people that have limited space. Because of their reliability, they are also great choices for people that don’t have the time or desire to deal with “fussy” plants.
If you want to grow your own rain lilies you should either grow them yourself from seed (read Cynthia’s article on how to do this here) or buy established plants. While it is possible to grow them from bulbs you need to be a little wary of buying these. If rain lilies have any drawbacks, it is the fact that their bulbs do not like to be out of the ground for very long. However, this does not mean that you cannot transplant the bulbs. Since many of these plants naturalize so readily here, you can quickly find yourself with big, thick drifts of flowers. If this happens, thin your stand by digging and moving the bulbs to other locations on your property.
Whether moving established bulbs or planting established plants from nurseries, it is best to place them in an area that receives a little shade. Since most of their flowers only last a day or two, a little shade can help your plants produce their most vibrant blooms and extend their bloom time. Because of this, many people plant their rain lilies around the base of the trees in their yards.
This past week I have noticed more and more rain lilies under the trees and in the ditches of the rural roads of Washington county. I smile every time I see one. You see, I absolutely love reliable and carefree plants and no plant that I know of is as beautiful, reliable and care free as the group of plants we call rain lilies. If you are looking for something that will thrive in our climate with absolutely no help from you, then rain lilies are are a group of plants that you really need to add to your garden collection.