Plant of the Month May 1991

Our selection for this month I like to call Desert Crocus, but it goes by many other names... Rain Lily, Fairy Lily, or Zephyr Flower. The real name for this flower is Zephyranthes.

Zephyranthes is a beautiful flowering bulb with rush-like leaves. If you've tried to grow bulbs but couldn't give them the attention they needed, this is the bulb for you, Zephyranthes thrives on neglect. It earned the name "Rain lily" because of a unique attribute: if you allow it to dry out and die back, then water it, it will spring forth with new growth and blooms. This can be done on and off, wet and dry, to encourage bloom throughout the year. Frankly, who wouldn't love a plant that loves it when you forget to water?

The Sunset Western Garden Book states that Zephyranthes doesn't grow in our zones, but I have grown it here for many years. I've even seen it growing wild in Bisbee. I grew some from seed collected from those wild ones. It did take 3 to 5 years before they began to bloom, when grown from seed. None the less, if you enjoy growing things from seed it can be rewarding.

Zephyranthes come in pink, white, yellow, and all shades in between. The dark green grass-like foliage is good with rock gardens or borders. The lush appearance makes it good for a mini-oasis, close-up plant even though it doesn't need much water. I had mine planted by a down spout and never watered it. In the summer it would die back, then, when the rains came it would give quite a show. If you want a bulb that is easy to grow ... and fun, you might try Zephyranthes. It can be found in many mail order catalogues.

Peter Whitman
May, 1991