Monday, June 1, 2015

Rain coming down...rain lilies popping up

A rain lily bouquet

After several weeks of hot, dry weather, it finally rained, and the thirsty ground wasted no time soaking up water from back-to-back downpours. After three days in a row of wet weather, the sudden appearance of slender stalks topped with swollen pale pink buds hinted of flowers to come.

Shortly after a steady downpour, slender rain lily stalks appeared 

I went to sleep that night dreaming of rain lilies and awoke to a flush of flowers. The trumpet-shaped buds had opened wide, broadcasting a visual message of joy and optimism across the landscape.

The same flowers as above after the swollen buds opened

There are more than 70 species of rain lilies, including yellow, white and pink flowering varieties. The ones that pepper our property with their six-petalled blooms are Zephyranthes grandiflora, a pink-flowering rain lily with strap-like leaves and pencil-thick stalks that rise between 8 and 16 inches above the ground. Each stalk produces one funnel-shaped flower that lasts for several days before fading away. The flower, which has a white throat and yellow anthers, is about three inches long and four inches across. It may not be the showiest of flowers, but each pink bloom is chock full of exuberant cheerfulness.

A closer look at a pretty face

All rain lilies are members of the amaryllis family, the same family that includes golden daffodils and delicate white snowdrops, one of the first flowers to appear in northern climates when the frozen ground begins to thaw.

Rain lilies are related to daffodils

Like their more familiar relatives, rain lilies also grow from bulbs. The bulbs are about the size of pearl onions and multiply rapidly to form small clumps of grassy foliage. Although these perennials grow best in rich, moist soil in sunny locations, they’re not fussy plants. The bulbs still will produce flowers even when planted a couple inches below the ground in partial sun or shady locations or in poor soil and drier locations. When planted in such spots, they reproduce less rapidly and tend not to grow as tall as they would if planted in more ideal locations.

Rain lilies work well as potted plants, as edging in flowerbeds or naturalized in lawns. At our house, they grow everywhere. Most of our plantings were intentional, but every year a few surprise lilies pop up in unexpected places. 

Rain lilies surround a small bamboo

This year, I discovered some flowers in the middle of a field far away from our house and another small cluster by a grove of bamboo. Although we didn’t plant the lilies in either place, they probably landed there when flowerbeds were weeded and dug-up dirt was spread around other areas.

Pretty no matter where they're planted

While daffodils and snowdrops are more suited to cold climates, rain lilies are warm-weather plants considered hardy in USDA Zones 8-11. However, my daughter Jenny, who lives in western Massachusetts, keeps a pot of rain lilies in her house throughout the winter and moves it outside onto her back steps in summertime. During cold months, all she sees is the plant’s green foliage, but after summer rains, Jenny is rewarded with pretty, pink reminders of her Florida roots.

A reminder of home

There are other flowers as easy to grow as rain lilies, but none match the display rain lilies produce immediately after the darkest and stormiest of weather. Rain lilies are floral proof that sunshine always follows rain and that even in the worst of times a spot of brightness can chase away the gloom.


  1. Rain lilies are a favorite of mine. Love their cheerful flowers. We finally got some much needed rain today. All my plants look so much happier!

    1. We sure did need that rain. It's been dry for so long.