Zephyranthes or Rain Lilies

Pink Zephyr lilies in gravel mow curb strip in Manoa

By Heidi Bornhorst

Recent heavy rains have brought on the gorgeous blooming of Rain Lilies.  This is an old-fashioned Hawaii garden plant that many of us cherish.

I first learned about them from my Mentor and Hanai Tutu, May Moir.  She always encouraged the golden flowered form in her rock garden, and in an old concrete driveway that served as a rustic garden path. She taught me how to collect and grow more from seeds.

Their Latin name is Zephyranthes and we have several color forms that grow well here in Hawaii.

Moir had the yellow and the white flowered ones in her garden. I have the yellow one in my garden and along my mow curb. When they bloom, I think of May Moir and all that she shared with me.  What a Friendship garden gift!

We were visiting my Aunty Hilda Kaneshiro in Manoa and I noticed some nice sidewalk mow curbs that had the pink flowered one.  Later I stopped to get some pictures of them.

I’ve also been noticing the yellow ones in sidewalk strips along Palolo Avenue and today I stopped to try and get some good pictures of those.

We all want to encourage people not to cover our island with concrete, right?

Concrete and other impermeable surfaces restrict rainwater from trickling down and recharging our aquifers.  Excess hard surfaces like roads and walkways, and cement driveways and even the mow curbs, leads to flooding down slope; freshwater runoff into our oceans and prevents the groundwater recharge that is vital to all our future.

We call these impermeable surfaces  and they are NOT good !  Our aina needs to drain and keep fresh water on land and going down into our AQUIFER.  This is for us and for future generations

On average it takes 25 years for rainwater to land, trickle down through the lava, and past the lava dikes, and down, down to our underground fresh water.

If it all runs off down slope it can cause flooding, and that fresh water is not good for the Ocean and our coral reefs.

Flooding water is not that fresh, its full of junk.  Oil gas yard chemicals and more.  We really don’t want that in our Moana, our lovely ocean….

The mow curb is public property and homeowners are supposed to maintain a grassy strip that will drain.  Some people get tired of maintaining the grass and concrete over this strip.

This is illegal.  They city will come and rip out the concrete and restore drainage.  And charge the expense back to the owner. So please, keep it draining, gangy !

And it is not neighborly, or pono for our aina.  Please everyone, let’s kokua and do the right thing. Water is vital for all of us.

Having a gravel strip with Zephyranthes lilies is a creative landscape solution that is also pretty.  It saves the time and energy, gas oil and noise of maintaining, mowing and edging a grass strip.

You can choose pink white or yellow flowers.  Zephyranthes are a lily and you can grow more from the bulbs.  Ask for this nice Xeriscape garden plant at your favorite nursery or garden shop.

If you don’t like the gravel look, you can grow them at the edge of your lawn.  This is very pretty with the bright flowers Blooming cheerfully amidst the green grass

Or you can grow them in large pot with well-drained soil.

Golden form of Zephyranthes lilies

HOW TO GROW Zephyr lilies :

After a good rain and mass blooming cycle, some of the flowers develop seed pods.  After the three valved seed pods ripen for a bit, they split open, revealing stacks of flat black seeds in each seed pod.  You can grow more plants from these seeds.

Or you can dig out the bulbs and grow more that way.

You can also ask for them at your favorite garden shop, such as Ko`olau Farmers.  

Call a landscape nursery like the Nii nurseries in Hawaii Kai, or Kobas or Sharon’s Plants in Waimanalo.

Zephyranthes are in the lily family Amaryllidaceae.  The Scientific name has Greek origins:  “Zephyrus” is the God of the West wind, “Anthos” means flower.

They are native to the Americas, and there are at least 70 species.  They do hybridize and breeders opt for different colors and enhanced drought tolerance.

Other common names are Magic lily, Fairy lily, Atamasco, and Zephyr lily.

A funny note, to me is that the strange WEST winds we’ve been having lately, (a very odd wind direction for Hawai`i) coupled with rain, did that all trigger the Zephyr lilies to bloom ?  (Note the Latin name !)

Heidi Leianuenue Bornhorst is a landscaping consultant, gardener trainer, and specialty VIP garden guide. She has been a professional horticulturist for more than 33 years. She is also a Certified Arborist. You can contact her via email at heidibornhorst@gmail.com or at 739-5594.

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