Rain lilies, or Zephyranthes, are so named because they produce vibrant blooms after exposure to rain, and can bloom and rebloom again and again as they are exposed to rainfall, making them a favorite of beginning and experienced gardeners alike. These lovely and delicate plants have migrated stateside via Mexico, South America, and Guatemala. They will at first develop in small tightly bunched clumped formations and it may take several growing cycles before they show themselves as the expressive, lyrical blossoming plants that they are known to be. Rain lilies are extraordinarily adaptive and do very well alongside a wide variety of botanical friends and neighbors, requiring little care other than access to rainfall in order to thrive. Plant bulbs can be planted nearly anywhere and will thrive with very little care.
Preparing to Plant Rain Lilies
Rain lilies can grow up to one and a half feet in height, and when planting, spacing should consider this. Rain lilies do best in a sun to partial shade situation. They will produce white or ivory blossoms anywhere from late winter to mid fall of the following year. Rain lilies are considered to be herbaceous and do well in neutral or mildly acidic soil. One consideration for where to plant rain lilies is that they do not do well indoors due to a lack of access to rainfall.
Planting Rain Lilies
Once a location has been chosen, ensure that bulbs are planted at a minimum of three inches apart and one or two inches deep in free soil or pots outdoors. Rain lilies do well with a fertilizer once per month and regular watering if rainfall is not readily accessible. Soil should be maintained in a moist but not wet condition at all times. As leaves grow older and become dry, they can be pruned away. As more and more leaves fall into this state, the plant is indicating it is going dormant for winter. In milder climates the bulbs can remain in a dormant state in the free soil throughout the winter, but in colder climates the bulbs should be removed from the ground and stored in a cool dry place such as a garage, basement, or refrigerator over the winter. Bulbs can be stored in loosely closed plastic bags filled with a mixture of soil and peat.
Caring for Rain Lilies
Rain lilies are remarkably resistant to common garden pests and diseases. They can be disturbed by snails and slugs, which enjoy the flavor of rain lily leaves, but the plant itself has toxic properties to humans, birds, animals, and other insects so it is generally spared. Rain lilies can develop red blotch, which causes leaves to appear with a red streak or splotch across the leaf face. The disease is not otherwise harmful to the rain lily, except for its cosmetic affect, and generally goes away on its own. Oddly, it is caused by overexposure to rainfall. If drought occurs, rain lilies will go dormant, but will reappear with renewed access to rainfall once again.