white rain lily
“Absurdly easy and prolific,” writes Scott Ogden in Garden Bulbs for the South of this cheery little flower. Over grassy foliage, its short, white, crocus-like flowers open after late-summer rains. Discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, it grew so thickly along Argentina’s Rio de la Plata that it inspired its name: River of Silver. Praised by Bostonian E.S. Rand in his 1866 Bulbs, it’s easy in pots in the North and perennial in zones 7a-11b. 5-7”, from Holland.
SUB TYPE wildflower
ZONES 7a-11b or in pots
SOURCE Holland, Dutch
LIGHT full sun
PLANTING & CARE
Rain lily bulbs are so small, it’s best to plant them as soon as possible. But you have to wait till all danger of frost is past — when the soil warms up and night temperatures remain near 60° F. You can check the average low for any zip code and any day of the year at weather.com and similar sites. If that means you have to store them, leave the plastic bags loosely open at the top so air can circulate a bit and set in a cool, dim place. 50-60° F is ideal, but close will do. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t dry out completely.
White rain lilies are hardy in zones 7 and warmer (lows to 0°F), pink in zones 8 and warmer (to 10°). To bloom well, both need hot summers. Plant outside 1-2 inches deep and 2-3 inches apart. Though they prefer full sun and moist loam, they are very easy to grow (“absurdly easy and prolific,” Scott Ogden writes in Garden Bulbs for the South) in a wide range of conditions, even damp clay. In their native Argentina the white ones actually grow in marshland! Protect them from greedy tree roots and keep them watered in dry spells and they will reward you with even better growth.
In colder areas, they make interesting plants for pots (especially the pink ones). Plant about 1 inch deep and crowded close together — they reputedly bloom best when pot-bound — in "cactus mix" or another quick-draining potting soil. Water well. To stimulate bloom, many authorities recommend setting them in a saucer of water once well established. Heat is important, too!
WINTER CARE — In areas where they’re not winter-hardy, bring inside at frost. Dry and store right in the pot or in dry peat moss, coarse vermiculite, etc., ideally at 50-60° F. Replant — or begin to water again — in the spring after last frost, fertilizing regularly to promote rebloom.
Learn more about growing and enjoying rain lilies at our Spring Diverse Newsletter Archives.