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What is a Rain Lily?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2016
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With a delicate appearance yet easy maintenance, the rain lily is one of many lovely ornamental plants used in rock gardens, indoor container displays, and simple landscaping projects. The species features thin, narrow stalks and winding, vibrant leaves. Blooming in an upward tilt several times a year, rain lilies are typically soft white, lemon yellow, or light to vivid pink in hue.

The rain lily can grow up to 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) in height. Stems of the rain lily are hollow and can grow up to 7 inches (17 centimeters) in height. The plant's petals are typically in formations of six, and can grow up to 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) in length. Leaves surround the stem resemble bright green grass.

In many areas, the lily is planted outdoors during the fall and left to bloom during the spring. Rain lilies thrive in direct sunlight, though they will also grow well in partial shade. They can be planted as close as 3 inches (8 centimeters) apart, and should not be buried in soil deeper than 2 inches (5 centimeters).

Hardy plants, the flowers will survive droughts. Regular watering, however, can help the flowers bloom more frequently. Once the flowers bloom, they will usually remain open for a few days. The blooms typically close at night.

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Due to their bold coloration and center star formation, rain lilies have been given many other whimsical names. Some of these include magic lily, zephyr lily, fairy lily, and rainflower. The Latin name of the species is Zephyranthes. After each rain, following a dry period during the summer, the rain lily rewards its keepers with another fragrant bloom, giving it a seemingly magical property that children especially enjoy.

Thought to be native to Central America, the rain lily can also be found in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Indonesia, and Thailand. To maintain the lily, provide it with monthly fertilizer and moist soil throughout the summer months. In cold, northern climates, the bulbs should be planted during the spring and dug up during the fall to protect them from frequent freezing temperatures. When storing rain lily bulbs for winter, they should be kept in perlite or peat moss.

Rain lilies should be kept out of reach of children and pets. Many parts of the plant, including the bulb and petals, are considered toxic. If eaten, take the child or animal to the nearest emergency center immediately.

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