Rain Lilies

- Lebon -

MANILA, Philippines - Three days after a strong rain, the grass-looking plants burst into massive blooming. This is the characteristic of Rain Lilies or Zephyranthes that made it a popular plant in tropical and subtropical landscapes. Recent developments in breeding and selection has led to new forms, colors and flower longevity.

Zephyranthes belongs to the Amaryllis group of bulb-plants that originates from Southern United States up to South America. The storage organ is a tunicated bulb with slightly contractile root system. They produce 6 identical tepals (sepals and petals look alike) that is held upright and foliage tend to be narrow and grass-like. Plant usually grow to around 1 foot. 

Rainlily breeding

The natural species are usually white, yellow or pink but modern hybrizers have created reds, tans, peach, apricots, orange, dark pinks, two-tones, banded and picotees. Fasciated forms like doubles, half doubles, triples have been developed in different color forms have also been developed.

What the Rainlily does not have in flower longevity, it makes up for in numbers. The species and hybrids are capable of bursting into full massive colors in the garden in the slightest provocation of rain.


Rainlily propagation may be done through seeds, by bulb division or by bulb chipping. 

Pollinated flowers may give 3-loculed fruits carrying 8 to 20 seeds or more depending on the mother plant. Apomixis or virgin births can also occur where the plantlets produced are genetically identical to the mother plants. Seeds readily germinate when harvested from fruit capsules that has turned yellow.

Baby bulbs from the original bulbs may be separated from the mother bulb and planted separately producing 4 to 10 fold increase in number yearly. The faster method of propagation is to chop the bulbs into 4, 6 or 8 pieces by slicing through the basal disc of the bulb. Progression is around 60 fold increase per year per bulb.

Pest management

Zephyranthes is generally pest-free. Catterpillars (sphinx moths, army worms) and other insects occasionally show up in perennialized stands. Leaves may all be eaten bare but the plant rebounds back in due time. Insect pests should be treated as they show up.

Mites may infest colonies of rainlilies and may be sprayed with soap solution for 4 consecutive weeks until the population is brought down to a level where the mites do not show up in ocular inspection with a jeweller’s loop.

Rainlilies tolerate a wide range of soil types. It is relatively resistant to fungal infections even in wet locations.

Market potential

Rainlilies has the potential for wider usage in the tropical landscapes. As more colors, types and forms are developed by breeders in USA, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, the plant become more interesting horticulturally. 

Development of longer-flowered varieties that last 3 days makes the group more interesting for flower forcers and summer bulb dealers. 

The developments of new color forms and fasciated forms increased the interest among the plant collectors and are currently selling at $30 per bulb or more.

Zephyranthes has been bred with other members of the Amaryllidaceae family creating intergenerics and multigenerics that has other characteristics that are non-existent in the pure Zephyranthes genus.  

Recent researches in bulb programming, thermal virus cleaning and management, mass clonal propagation, mutagenesis, chromosomal doubling, flower induction and flower forcing are creating waves in the research communities. With this much interests and developments it is only a matter of time before we see the wonderful creations of man in the Philippine gardens.

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March 3, 2012 - 12:00am
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