Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Jewels for the Garden

A challenge that faces low water usage gardeners during the dog days of summer, where rainfall is sporadic, is how to add color to your garden when your plants want to go dormant throughout these hot, dry days. One solution I have found are rain lilies of the genus Zephyranthes.

These hardy bulbs send up flowers when the weather is hot and a passing summer shower temporarily brings welcome relief from a dry spell. Their flowers range from a larger pink variety to crocus like blooms of peach, yellow and white, with the white ones being the smallest. The pink ones are usually the first to send up buds, followed soon by the others to create a riot of cheery color. This delightful burst of color lasts from a couple of days to a week depending on the weather conditions.

Rain lilies will develop into larger clumps as the bulbs naturally divide. If you let the seed heads mature, they will also propagate from seed. An interesting note, when the pink rain lilies reseed, they produce the smaller bright yellow rain lily. All of the others seem to come up true from seed. Therefore if you want to share your pink rain lilies, you must divide the bulbs.

When rain lilies are not in bloom, their strap like leaves provide a spot of green. If you have a particularly long dry spell, these grassy clumps may almost disappear. The foliage will also disappear with a frost and then reappear as the weather warms in the spring.

Plant Zephyranthes and you will be treated to treasure chests of colorful jewels gracing your garden shortly after you are lucky enough to catch a summer shower.

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