Monday, August 17, 2015

Which do you like, yellow or white rain lilies?

A new flower is growing alongside an old favorite in the garden: Yellow rain lilies, Zephyranthes citrine, are now producing bright lemon-colored flowers on slender green stalks next to pink rain lilies, Zephyrantues grandiflora.

Although much smaller than their pink relatives, yellow rain lilies are a wonderful addition to the landscape or container garden 

Of the 70 species of rain lilies, pink rain lilies are the ones most commonly found in Central Florida landscapes. I planted my first pink rain lily bulbs more than 20 years ago and since then, the six-petal beauties with the trumpet-shaped flower have expanded exponentially. Pink rain lilies have found their way into flowerbeds, poked their slender stalks through the soil of assorted-size pots and appeared unexpectedly throughout the lawn and around the property. Many of these cheery-faced flowers were self-propagated while others were inadvertently moved from one location to another in the process of weeding or digging up dirt.

Pink rain lilies naturalized in the lawn

Like most plants that grow from bulbs, rain lilies multiply rapidly. One plant becomes two. Two plants become four and before you know it, you find yourself looking out your window after a summer downpour at large clumps of perky flowers filling the yard with their sunny faces.

What began with just a few lilies soon turned into large clumps of the sunny flowers surrounding a planting of Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo

I love growing pink rain lilies and have always wanted to add yellow and white specimens to the landscape. Although I have yet to find a source for white rain lilies, a plant exchange two years ago in Winter Garden yielded a few tiny bulbs.

Rather than place the new bulbs directly into the ground — I was afraid I might forget where I planted them — I placed the pea-sized starts in a small pot that already contained pink rain lilies. It’s a good thing I did because it took more than a year before the yellow rain lilies matured enough to produce flowers.

Like all Zephyranthes, which are members of the amaryllis family, rain lilies produce six-petal flowers after a downpour. Just when the weather is most dismal, rain lilies open wide to welcome the sun and remind us that the sky doesn’t stay gray forever.

A floral reminder that the sky doesn't stay gray forever

My first yellow rain lily bloomed in January, and the original planting has already multiplied within the container so that now several flowers appear simultaneously after a shower.

Although yellow rain lilies are closely related to their more familiar pink-tinted brethren, the two varieties have distinct differences. The pink rain lily produces a flower atop a 12-18-inch tall tubular stem. It is much taller than the yellow-flowering plant, which rises only 8-10-inches above the ground on a much thinner stalk.

The flowers and leaves of each species also are different. Pink rain lily petals are at least three times as long as those of yellow rain lily petals, and the lily’s leaves are flat like the broad blades of grass. The thin leaves of yellow rain lilies resemble chives and because its yellow petals are short, its pollen-covered stamens are more easily visible than those of pink rain lilies.

Although the pink rain lilies aren't blooming in this photo, their long, broad leaves visibly contrast with the narrow, thin blades of the yellow rain lilies

However, the most important difference between the two plants is the method of reproduction. While the pink rain lily reproduces by offset — producing ‘daughter’ plants genetically identical to the mother plant — the yellow rain lily propagates via seeds. As soon as each individual yellow rain lily flower finishes blooming, it develops a seedpod that contains about a dozen flat, black seeds. The seeds, which are about the size and shape of flattened watermelon seeds, soon drop to the ground where they sprout easily in warm, damp weather.

Yellow rain lily flowers, closed seedpod, open seedpod and empty seedpod growing in the same container as pink rain lilies

As soon as I discovered yellow rain lily sprouts growing on the ground beneath the container, I began transplanting them to other pots and directly into the garden itself. In its own way, yellow rain lilies, my new addition to the landscape, are proving to be just as hardy, prolific and beautiful as the pink rain lilies that have been filling the landscape with cheerfulness for more than two decades.


  1. Love them both! Seeing large patches of them following rain showers is pure joy!

    1. You and i feel the same about rain lilies, Susan. They are such a burst of brightness after a stormy day. Love them all :)

  2. I have gathered a few just recently. Blooming after a heavy rain. They are dark red, brown on the outside of the small trumpet and bright yellow, orange on the inside. Are these Rain lilies? Thanks

    1. From your description, they don't sound like any rain lilies I've ever seen. I wish I could see a picture of them. Where are you located, Shirley?