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For other plants commonly known as 'rain lilies', see Rain lily.
Zephyranthes candida.jpg
Zephyranthes candida
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Amaryllidoideae
Tribe: Hippeastreae
Subtribe: Zephyranthinae
Genus: Zephyranthes
  • Atamosco Adans.
  • Atamasco Raf.
  • Haylockia Herb.
  • Cooperia Herb.
  • Sceptranthes Graham
  • Mesochloa Raf.
  • Plectronema Raf.
  • Pogonema Raf.
  • Argyropsis M.Roem.
  • Arviela Salisb.
  • Aidema Ravenna
Diversity in Zephyranthes

Zephyranthes /ˌzɛfˈrænθz/[3] is a genus of temperate and tropical plants in the Amaryllis family, native to the Western Hemisphere and widely cultivated as ornamentals. There are over 70 recognized species[4] species in the Amaryllis family (subfamily Amaryllidoideae).[5] as well as numerous hybrids and cultivars. Common names for species in this genus include fairy lily, rainflower, zephyr lily, magic lily, Atamasco lily, and rain lily.

The name is derived from Ζέφυρος (Zephyrus), the Greek god of the west wind, and ἄνθος (anthos), meaning flower, referring to the slender stalks.[6]


According to Meerow et al., cladistics suggests that the genus is native to the Americas. Several species have become naturalized (sometimes unintentionally) in other places like Hawaii, Indonesia, and Thailand. The species that are native to the higher altitudes in Mexico (e.g. Z. lindleyana, Central America (Costa Rica, e.g. Z. carinata) and parts of North America (e.g. Z. longifolia) or Argentina (e.g. Z. candida) represent the species having the greatest potential for cold hardiness.


These perennial bulbs (geophytes) tolerate many ecological niches (periodically wet soil to desert conditions), and have many ornamental characteristics. Care should be taken with the plants since many of the parts, leaves, bulbs etc. are currently considered toxic. The genus has been evaluated for possible medicinal properties, and the biochemically toxic compounds are classed as alkaloids.[7]


Species in the genus which are listed in this article vary in morphology. Along with floral morphology, characteristics such as bulb size, bulb tunic color, and leaf morphology help identify individual species.

Foliage in the wild is often ephemeral, but under cultivation becomes more persistent. Leaf color ranges from the bright grassy green of Z. candida (shown in the photo) to rather broad glaucous colored foliage such as found in Z. drummondii. A few of the species have distinct bronze tints in the foliage when grown in bright light. Size of leaves in these species, ranges from dark green and tiny grassy leaves in species like Z. jonesi or Z. longifolia, to broader, glaucous leaves in species like Z. drummondii. Perhaps largest leaves of all is found on Z. lindleyana from Mexico, usually distributed as a cultivar called 'Horsetail Falls,' this species has handsome broad leaves almost like a Hippeastrum.


Flower color in the species ranges from white to yellow (various tints of this color from lemon to sulfur) and pink. Zephyranthes have erect flower stalks which support a flower that may be upward facing or slightly nodding. The funnel-shaped, flowers with six petals can be crocus shaped, but may also open flat such as in Z. jonesii or even reflex slightly.

The flowers of some species have a sweet, pleasant fragrance. Fragrance appears to be recessive in crosses, but there are a few species or hybrids, Z. drummondii (white), Z. morrisclintae (pink) and Z. jonesii (light yellow), that all carry the trait. At least two of these open their flowers at night and are attractive to nocturnal insects. The flowers typically last only for a day or two; but new flowers may appear in a succession of blooms, especially during humid or rainy weather.

Various members of the genus may bloom spring only or repeat and continue into autumn, often a few days after rainstorms thus one of the common names, rain lilies. Periods of synchronous bloom, which breeders have dubbed "blitzes", are part of their ornamental value, but also times breeders exploit for the purpose of producing new hybrids.[8]

Most species under cultivation will bloom without the naturally imposed drought and wet that occurs in nature. Greenhouse grown plants bloom very freely but cycle through periods of bloom. One of the longest blooming of all the species is Z. primulina which blooms from April until October. Although it is apomictic, it is a choice parent for crosses because of its rapid repeat flowering trait and long bloom season. Some other species such as Z. morrisclintae appear to bloom only in the spring season. Most of these species are easily propagated vegetatively via offsets or twin scaling. A few of them such a Z. clintae are slow to produce increase.

Unusual phenotypes can be preserved vegetatively. Sexual reproduction is via seed. The apomictic species freely set seed and faithfully reproduce the maternal phenotype. Sterility in hybrids can be problematic;reasons for this are mentioned below. Seed usually is best sown quickly after harvest, although short term storage can be successful. Maiden seedling can be brought into bloom for some of the hybrid in 8–12 months after sowing in ideal conditions. This makes it easy to carry out checks for apomixis.


Currently these plants are commonly cultivated in USDA hardiness zones 7–10. Rain lily breeders may develop cultivars with greater cold hardness.

Generally rain lilies are sold in nurseries already potted up. This is of benefit since the growth cycle is not interrupted. Rarely (and not ideally), dried bulbs are marketed. Such dried bulbs usually become established after one to two growing seasons and will regain bloom vigor.

Although many of the common names include "lily", these plants are actually in the Amaryllis family. They are much less fussy than the amaryllis however. Zephyranthes are bulbs, but you don't have to fuss over them like tulips. You usually buy them in one gallon pots with ample soil around them. They come out of the pot in a big clump of 30 or so bulbs and you can simply plant the entire clump intact or separate them and spread them out a little.

Zephyranthes are available year round in most nurseries in USDA Zones 7–10. While the pink species is best known, coral, white, and yellow species are gaining popularity. If you plant Zephyranthes when it is cool, give them some water as they get established, then you never need to mess with them again. Just enjoy them. No watering, no pruning, no muss, no fuss.

While Zephyranthes can stand dry periods, if you want the graceful green leaves to remain showing all year, you may need to add some water in drier periods or more arid climates. This can be a good thing if you let them dry a week or so between watering. The cycle of drying then watering encourages them to send forth bewitching flowers.

All Zephyranthes do best with a little shade in the US Southwest.[9] If you plant them around the base of trees or shrubs, everyone wins. You get a ground cover that shades the ground so your trees lose less water to evaporation, and zephyranthes get some shade. The cover of zephyranthes hides fallen leaves, which turn into nutrient rich compost for continued plant health, and you have less raking.

Elizabeth Lawrence in her classic A Southern Garden (1942) writes with enthusiasm about pink rain lily, Zephyranthes grandiflora (=Zephyranthes carinata):

It is one of the hardiest species and is said to winter safely in Philadelphia. As a child I thought of the little rose-colored lilies as the sign and seal of summer. My grandmother in Georgia grew them in her garden, and my grandmother in West Virginia grew them in little pots on the front porch. Those in my garden [in Raleigh] came from Georgia. They have been with me so long and have increased so much that their bloom makes a sea of pink. The season is in June but there is scattered bloom in the late summer and even to the end of September. The flowers are large, to over three inches long, on ten-inch stems. They open out flat at midday and close in the afternoon; this is a characteristic of the genus. The shimmering leaves are grass green.


Breeding with these species has some inherent difficulties summarized by RoyChowdhury (2006) as ranging from pseudogamy and apomixis, differences in chromosome number and varying times of flowering. In spite of these drawbacks breeding work is being done to enhance the value of the plants as ornamentals. Because of the nature of botanical restriction breeding programs often encounter impediments. Reciprocal crosses may be difficult because the apomictic parent cannot be used as female parents. However interspecific crosses are well documented.[10] There are tri-hybrids and quad-hybrids being produced (crossing 3 or 4 distinct species). Such work indicates that complex hybrids should be possible. One constraint remains that seedlings may still carry the apomictic trait, and it is necessary to have progeny from a test cross to determine this.

John Fellers, Fadjar Marta and Tony Avent[11] are just a few of the breeders currently working today to increase the potential for these plants. Their work has come to the attention of connoisseurs of the these plants. Colors in man-made crosses currently include red, orange, tan, salmon, blends, picotees and stripes. Floral types such as goblet shaped, wavy petal edges, narrow petals and doubles have been bred (Marta 2005). Complex hybrids may have advantages in holding their flowers open longer, up to three days. While difficult, there have been a few attempts to cross some of these species with related species in the genus Habranthus. Currently it appears that a few crosses with large flowered Habranthus species have been possible for example the cultivar, 'Normal Pearl' which is an intergeneric cross.


The list of species below is taken from the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families as of September 2011,[2] unless otherwise noted. Only some selected synonyms are given.

Some other names are found in the horticultural literature, but as of September 2011 not in scientific databases of plant names, such as the Kew Checklist or the International Plant Names Index. These include: Zephyranthes huastecana, Zephyranthes lancasterae, Zephyranthes sylvestris and Zephyranthes zeyheri. Zephyranthes sulphurea is Z. citrina.

Formerly placed here[edit]

Named hybrids and cultivars[edit]

annotated where possible
  • 'Ajax' – Z. candida × Z. citrina
  • 'Apricot Queen' – apricot color hybridized by T. Howard
  • 'Aquarius' – Z. candida × 'Ajax'
  • 'Bali Beauty' – Fadjar Marta hybrid
  • 'Bangkok yellow' – Z. candida × Z. citrina
  • 'Batik' – Fadjar Marta hybrid offered by Plant Delights Nursery (PDN) in North Carolina
  • 'Bayberry Bells'
  • 'Becky Sellars' – cherry red
  • 'Benidama' – pink
  • 'Best Pink' – trihybrid (Z. candida × Z. citrina × Z. macrosiphon) pink
  • 'Big Shot' – Z. traubii hybrid, ivory white
  • 'Big Dude'
  • 'Bronze Beauty'
  • 'Capricorn' – hybridized by T. Howard, orange
  • 'Carmen Jones' – red
  • 'Cherry Fireball' – red, fades to pink
  • 'Confection'
  • 'Cookie'Cutter Moon' – Yucca Do release, white (excellent parent)
  • 'Copper Mine' – Marta hybrid, orange, Plants Delight Nursery (PDN) release
  • 'Dark Pink Spider' – F1 fertile Z. carinata hybrid
  • 'El Cielo'
  • 'Ellen Korsakoff'
  • 'Fadjar's Pink' – Marta hybrid
  • 'Fadjar's Pink' × Z. primulina – excellent Frechette hybrid
  • 'Fadjar's Pink' × Z. regina – very fast growing Frechette hybrid
  • 'Fantasy Island' – Marta hybrid, PDN release
  • 'Fireball' – swirly orange and red (fades to white)
  • 'Goliath' – PDN release – fertile Z. carinata hybrid
  • 'Grand Canyon'
  • 'Grandjax'
  • 'Horsetail Falls' – usually distributed as a cultivar, this species originally a collected plant (Z. lindleyana), large leaves & bulb
  • 'Ivory Star' – ivory (apomictic)
  • 'Jacala Crimson' – bred from Z. katherinae
  • 'Jakarta Jewel' – Marta hybrid, double, center petals reduced in size
  • 'Java' – Marta hybrid PDN release, bright orange, yellow throat hold color well
  • 'Jim Frechette' – F1 fertile Z. carinata, fast offset, blooms 1 year from seed
  • 'JoAnn Trial' – hybridized by Marta
  • 'Krakatau' – Marta hybrid, red orange
  • 'La Siberica'
  • La Bufa Rosa Group, formerly 'La Bufa Rosa'[14] (frequently incorrectly spelt, e.g. "Labuffarosa")
  • 'Laredo Yellow'
  • 'Libra'
  • 'Lily Pies' – selection from La Bufa Rosa Group
  • 'Lydia Luckman' – Marta hybrid, pink yellow blend
  • 'Manning's Hybrid' – parent includes Z. robusta
  • 'Michelle Casillas' – neon yellow hybrid
  • 'Moulin Rouge' – PDN release (double) pink and yellow blend
  • 'Norma Pearl' – intergeneric cross – white
  • 'Orange Big Shot × Pink Big Shot' – ('Big Shot' × Z. macrosiphon)
  • 'Orange Big Shot' – orange
  • 'Panama Pink' – Zephyranthes × flaggii
  • 'Paul Niemi' – Marta hybrid, orange (apomictic)
  • 'Pink Spider' – Fertile F1 Z. carinata × 'El Cielo'
  • 'Pink Panther' – selection from La Bufa Rosa Group
  • 'Prairie Sunset' – apricot-fades white, also sold as "copper rain lily"
  • 'Redneck Romance' – hybridized by Tony Avent
  • 'Rosea'
  • 'Ruth Page'
  • 'Salinas' - refers to collection site in Ecuador. White flowers (not Z candida)
  • 'Salmon Big Shot' – salmon pink, 'Big Shot' parentage
  • 'San Carlos' – exceptionally fragrant, white
  • 'Shannon Hill' – wine-pink hybrid of Z. clintae, non-fading
  • 'Shannon Hill × South Pacific' – Marta hybrid, introduced by PDN
  • 'Starfrost'
  • 'Summer's Chill'
  • 'Sunset Strain' – yellow w/red stripes (apomictic)
  • 'Tall Pink' – fertile F1 Z. carinata hybrid
  • 'Teddy Buhler'
  • 'Tenexico' – may be a natural hybrid? Yucca Do release – small flowered apricot
  • 'Tenexio Apricot'
  • 'Trihybrid' – [(Z. candida × Z. citrina) × Z. macrosiphon] marginally fertile
  • 'Twinkle'
  • 'Twisted Sister' – Yucca Do release, pastel apricot fades to ivory-white
  • 'Valles Yellow' – this is the original name of Z. reginae and is not a hybrid or cultivar
  • 'White Swan'
  • 'XZB-H21' – Fellers hybrid not in commerce – white
  • 'Yellow Big Shot' – ('Big Shot' × Z. citrina)


  1. ^ "Genus: Zephyranthes Herb.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d WCSP (2011), World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2011-09-23 , search for "Zephyranthes"
  3. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  4. ^ Mabberly, D.J. 1987. The Plant Book. Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Stevens, P.F., Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Asparagales: Amaryllidoideae 
  6. ^ Zephyranthes etymologies, Wordnik, accessed February 23, 2010, citing Century Dictionary
  7. ^ Kojima et al. 1997.
  8. ^ Marta 2005
  9. ^ Soule, 2005
  10. ^ RoyChowdhury 2006
  11. ^ Plant Delights Zephyranthes Photo Gallery
  12. ^ a b "GRIN Species Records of Zephyranthes". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  13. ^ http://www.ipni.org/ipni/simplePlantNameSearch.do?find_wholeName=Zephyranthes+longituba&output_format=normal&query_type=by_query&back_page=query_ipni.html
  14. ^ Zephyranthes La Bufa Rosa Group nomenclature, Yucca Do Nursery, inc., 2011, archived from the original on 2011-09-27, retrieved 2011-09-27 


  • Fellers, J. H. 1996. A Passion for Rainlilies: Cooperia, Habranthus and Zephyranthes. Herbertia 51:78–112.
  • Kapoor, B.M. and S. I. Tandon 1963. Contribution to the cytology of endosperm in some angiosperms IV: Zephyranthes grandiflora Lindl.. Genentica 34:1:101–112.
  • Marta, F. 2005. Breeding of Rainlilies. Bulbs: Bulletin of the International Bulb Society. 7(1)[January–June]:25–32.
  • Meerow, A.W., M. F. Fay, C.L. Guy, Q.B. Li, F.Q. Zaman and M.W. Chase. 1999. Systematics of Amaryllidaceae based on cladistic analysis of plastid RBCL and TML-F sequences of data. American Journal of Botany. 86:1325–1345.
  • Rainia, N.S. and TN Khoshhoo. 1971. Cytogenetics of Tropical Bulbous Ornamentals IX: Breeding system in Zephytanthes. Euphytica. 21:317–323.
  • RoyChowdhury, M. and J. Hubstenberger. 2006. Evaluation of cross pollination of Zephyranthes and Habranthus species and hybrids. Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science. 60:113–118.
  • Soule, J. A. 2005. "Z" is for Zephyranthes. Explorer Newspaper (Tucson, Arizona) 24 Aug. 2005.
  • Bulbsociety
  • Florida Gardener

External links[edit]