If there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbows that have been popping through the clouds during this sloshy summer in the Southeast, it’s a little flower that’s not afraid of water.
Rain lilies have been poking up in overdrive, thanks to soaked soils. These somewhat modest but elegant bulbs, known as Zephyranthes, bloom in different colors and at different times of spring and summer, depending on the species. Typically they are white and most eager to put on a show in late summer after a wet spell. Their slender grass-like foliage provides a perfect foil that makes them seem to pop even more.
Many rain lily species by nature multiply prolifically – Zephyranthes citrina, Z. candida, Z. drummondii. Give them a soaker of a summer and Bam! -- we’re talking instant meadow.
Most rain lilies grow 12 to 18 inches tall, while others, such as the yellow Z. citrina, are more petite, reaching only 6 to 10 inches. Because of their height, rain lilies look great tucked in front of a border, lining a pathway or even scattered in patches throughout a rock garden. They also make great companions for ground covers, interplanted with liriope, for example.
Hardy to zone 7, rain lilies should be dug up in colder climates, kept dry over winter and replanted in the spring.
Although they prefer full sun, the bulbs can take light shade as well. Just don’t be fooled by their name. Though rain lilies adapt well to alternating wet and dry spells, they do best when given evenly moist, well-drained soil.
At the end of the growing season, instead of pruning yellowed foliage after flowering is complete, leave it in place: bulbs rely on it to store energy for the next year.