Rain lilies

Late last year, I stopped by a favorite nursery and binged on plants for which I did not have a place prepared in the garden. Among the must-haves that found their way into my cart were Habranthus robustus, the nodding rain lily.

Habranthus robustus, rain lily

Zephyranthes sp. and Habranthus sp. are two genera commonly known as rain lilies, because they come into flower after summer rainstorms. Interestingly, they don’t respond in the same way to a shower from the hose or watering can–even if the water comes from a rain barrel. I am fascinated to know how these plants know the difference between the water sources. I have read a suggestion that it’s to do with nitrogen in the rainwater fixed by lightning, but they bloom after storms without lightning as well.

I am not sure why it’s called nodding rain lily–I didn’t observe the blooms nodding downward to any extent, but perhaps mine were duds. The position of the bloom, though, is one way to tell the genera apart: Zephyranthes species’ blooms tend to face upward, while Habranthus species’ blooms face outward, like those of their relative, the amaryllis.

The bulbs begin blooming in late summer, when little else shows up, and will often multiply steadily if planted in a happy spot. Unfortunately, I think mine may have been lost to last winter’s polar vortex. Plant Delights Nursery and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs carry lots of these fascinating plants, which are hardy between USDA Zones 7-10. I have read that Zephyranthes citrina is hardy to Zone 5. I’m keen to repopulate my garden with them all, but I may have to wait until next spring. I hear that another polar vortex may be in future this winter.

Crinums

Crinums are wonderful plants for warm-climate gardeners. Blooming in late summer, graceful flowers on tall stems fill the air with a honey-like scent.

Crinum bloomLooking very much like the amaryllis to which they are related, crinums grow from sturdy bulbs and have wide, strap-like leaves. They will not refuse a good garden soil but will grow just as easily in junkyards, if that is where you happen to garden. Like your friend who refuses to pick a restaurant for dinner, crinums are indifferent to their surroundings: sun, shade, wet, dry–oh, whatever. Just plant them up to their necks someplace and leave them alone. The only thing they fuss about is cold–they’re not reliably hardy north of Zone 7. But mine came through the polar vortex without complaint.

I never feed them. Sometimes they get mulched with shredded leaves if I need to empty my shredder bag nearby. Pinching off the spent blossoms keeps them going.

If you insist on moving one, be sure to get as much soil around the bulb as possible and don’t sever the bulb. Understand before you attempt this extraction that bulbs can grow to be absolutely enormous, basketball size (29 inches or 75 cm in circumference) or larger. Brush soil off the top of the bulb until you can discern its width, give it five inches on either side, and dig straight down. But really, if you’re the uncertain type, better plant it in a nice, large container, and move the container instead.

Crinum sources:

Backyard Blooms: Plants in flower this week

I’m taking a break this week, but here’s what’s blooming in my garden right now:

red Asiatic lily variety unknown

I acquired this from a large sack of bulbs at a big-box store. They turned out to be mislabeled as to their color. It’s a mostly-happy accident; while the color isn’t quite right for the bed in which it is planted, I know another place in the garden where it will look fantastic.

Asiatic Lilies vs. Oriental Lilies: The Basics

Asiatic lilies differ from Oriental lilies by their bloom time, height, and by their petals. Asiatic lilies have smooth edges to their petals, while Oriental lilies have slightly ruffled edges to theirs. Oriental lilies generally grow to more than 3 feet high in the garden, while Asiatic lilies are shorter. And Asiatic lilies tend to bloom earlier than Oriental lilies.

I’m still learning about differences in lilies and I hope to spend some time this summer learning different ways to propagate them. One can never have too many lilies, I think.

Backyard Blooms: Plants in flower this week

I’m taking a break this week, but here’s what’s blooming in my Zone 7 garden right now.

yellow lily and campion

An unknown variety of yellow Asiatic lily, and rose campion (Lychnis coronaria). The rose campion is a perennial, with an evergreen foliage rosette. It reseeds readily but is not difficult to manage.

I didn’t actually plan to combine these plants; I thought I was buying a variety of lily that had a similar color to the rose campion, but darker. I guess the garden powers-that-be had better ideas in mind. I love these happy accidents.

Garden log, 6.4.13

Aside

What’s Blooming Today?

Hemerocallis ‘Grand Opera’ bloomed this morning.

Hemerocallis 'Grand Opera' ('Grand Opera' daylily)

I adore the clear red color of this flower. It’s not muddied at all by hints of blue. It’s a short plant, perhaps 24 inches tall, and sits in the front of my south-side “hot” border. It pairs well with my tiger lilies and gold yarrow.

gold yarrow Achillea sp.

tiger lily lilium tigrinum

I still have perhaps two dozen small pots of seedlings remaining from my winter sowing project that I keenly want to get into the garden. I hope I may have time this evening to sneak into the garden and get them planted.