On Gardening: Hurricane Hermine brings magic flowers after the rain

September 12, 2016

The Evening Rain Lily Zephyranthes drummondii is native from New Mexico to Mississippi and as far north as Kansas. These are growing at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.

Hurricane Hermine came in and was a tropical storm by the time it reached Savannah and while it left a wake of plant destruction it also magically brought us blooms by the dozens. The storm hit on Friday; on Tuesday morning when we returned after the Labor Day holiday we were welcomed by rain lilies.

Friday the day of Hermine’s arrival the rain lilies in our White Garden, Zephyranthes candida, were just clumps of green foliage. This Amaryllis relative from South American countries like Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are now boasting dozens of flowers which will be just perfect for this weekend’s wedding.

Close by there are some clumps of yellow rain lily Zephyranthes citrina. It too was simply foliage and now five days later as I write this they look like small golden lanterns. This rain lily is native to the state of Yucatan in Mexico but both species are recommended for zones 7-10. But they aren’t the only ones showing a little magic after Hermine’s deluge.

Tucked away in our Cottage Garden and offering a beautiful surprise is the Pink Fairy rain lily known botanically as Habranthus robustus. It is also known as Brazilian Copperlily. Theses flowers are much larger holding their blooms at an angle as if they are looking at you, but instead, it’s your eyes that have become fixated on them scoping out their rare beauty.

The bloom of the rain lily is always a shocking surprise. It makes you stand and stare in amazement; how can it be so well timed after a rain? But as amazing as these are it was the evening rain lily Zephyranthes Cooperia drummondii that first stunned me while I was Director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. This species of rain lily is native from New Mexico to Mississippi and as far north as Oklahoma and Kansas.

In this section of the garden, supplemental irrigation was practically non-existent and the plants that grew there were among the toughest imaginable. In one bed was a sprawling patch of birdwing Passiflora, Passiflora tenuiloba. This rugged diminutive vine with small nickel sized blooms brings in butterflies for both nectar and larval host. But to our surprise after a rare storm, glistening white native rain lilies, popped up through the passion vine and in other areas, too.

No matter where you live you too can grow rain lilies. If you live in a colder region, dig them up in the fall for winter storage. In the spring plant your bulbs 2-3 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart to let you develop a nice stand or patch. If you live in zones 7-10, fall is the best time to plant. They bloom best in full sun to partial shade in a fertile well-drained organic-rich bed. The native species Z. drummondii grown at the National Butterfly Center in South Texas had good drainage but the soil was anything but luxuriant.

Zephyranthes means ‘flower of the west wind’, if you grow them and incorporate them into your landscape it will no doubt be more like ‘Magic Flower from the Rain’. I hope you will give them a try.



Associated Press