Storm lilies

June 23, 2012 – 12:23 pm

A 'lawn' of Zephyranthes flavissimus at a nurseryStorm lilies, autumn crocus or rain lilies are small bulbs in the genus Zephyranthes. These under rated plants deserve to be more widely grown in subtropical and tropical gardens. They are tough and undemanding, and soon form large clumps that flower readily over summer in response to warm and moist conditions.

Flowering is synchronised – that is, plants will flower simultaneously together over a wide region. The flowering seems to be stimulated by storm events, possibly triggered by changes in pressure. Flowering is often said to predict forthcoming rain events.Zephyranthes carinata planted along a street flowering and seeds fall while the ground is still moist.

The name Zephyranthes means ‘flower of the west wind’. The flowers are symmetrical and point straight up. The related Habranthus genus, also widely grown, have similar flowers which hang to one side. Each flower generally lasts for one to two days.

Zephyranthes flavissimus has butter yellow flowersThese bulbous plants are native to the southern USA, down through Mexico and Central America to the south of the South American continent. They also grow in the islands of the Caribbean. Typically they are found growing in meadows and pastures among grasses. These plants grow in regions subject to seasonal rainfall and can tolerate both wet and dry periods.

Zephyranthes candida is popular in southern Australia

Over the Xmas and New Year period I had a chance to visit some nurseries and gardens. At Big Leaf Nursery at Eumundi, I saw the yellow storm lily (Zephyranthes flavissimus), being grown in large quantities. From southern Brazil and northern Argentina, this plant has stunning shiny deep green leaves and starry butter yellow flowers. In the nursery beds plants resembled a lush turf covered in flowers. I was told they look like this every day of the year. Mine at home are more seasonal, but I suspect they are responding to water availability. I find this plant to be less vigorous than many other popular species, but it is still one of my favourites. A new year’s resolution is to plant more of this bulb to make some flowering ’lawns‘ in my own garden.

Zephyranthes primulinum with seedlings around it An orange hybrid Zephyranthes at Gardens by the Bay Reddish Zephyranthes at Gardens by the Bay A double pink Zephyranthes at Gardens by the Bay

Source: gardendrum.com


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