Rain Lilies Make Great Perennial Fillers in the Garden

This clumping perennial bulb has a small, star-shaped flower and works great to fill in empty spots in an outdoor bed or as a container planting.

Originally from Mexico, Guatemala, and the grassy plains of South America, rain lilies (Habranthus robustus, also Zephyranthesrobusta) are a perennial bulb that can be planted in Zones 7b to 10.

They get their name from their tendency to burst into bloom after a rainstorm, giving the gardener a pleasant surprise as they need little care and can be easily forgotten.

Where to Plant Rain Lilies

Easy to grow and requiring little maintenance, Habranthus robustus is a lovely addition to perennial beds, herb gardens or containers. Just poke the little bulbs in here and there and forget them. One day in late summer they will provide a pleasant surprise as the small pink, white or yellow flowers suddenly pop out while other plants around them may be fading.

Rain lilies prefer sun to partial shade and can grow up to one and one half feet in height. Over the years they can amass into an impressive bunch, providing nice filler for beds.

 

The rain lily does not do well indoors and needs to be planted in well-drained soil. If left to soak, the bulb will rot in the ground. Cutting the flowers for a bouquet is a lovely way to bring rain lilies indoors and will not hurt the plant.

In cases of drought, the lilies will go dormant but will reappear with renewed vigor once rain begins to fall again. The blooms are also attractors of butterflies and other pollinators, and so make an excellent addition to a butterfly garden.

Care of Rain Lily Plant

Since they are so low maintenance and are remarkably resistant to pests, rain lilies are designated a Florida-friendly perennial landscape plant.

Choose a well-drained site in sun to partial shade. Plant the bulbs two inches deep and three to four inches apart in an outdoor bed or container. After planting, water the bulbs generously. Root and top growth will take place in the spring.

Once blooming has finished for the season, do not cut off the foliage. The leaves will gather nutrients for next season’s bloom. Yellowed leaves can be removed.

In mild climates, the bulbs can be left in the ground, but in colder areas the bulbs do best when removed for the winter and stored. After the first frost, dig up the bulbs, let them air dry for several days, then store them in a cool, dry place.

Information on this plant and other Florida-friendly foliage such as temperate fruit trees, Rangoon Creeper, and Society Garlic is provided with permission by Dee Dee Jacobson, horticultural agent at the University of Florida’s IFAS extension office in Highlands County, Florida.