Care and Maintenance of the Fairy Lily

by Michelle Wishhart

Fairy lily is one common name name given to numerous species in the Zephyranthes, Habranthus, Cooperia and other closely related genera of the amaryllis family. Common in Southern fields and lawns, they are also often called rain lily, rainflower or zephyrlily. Most are toxic if ingested. These perennial bulbs bloom suddenly after rain breaks a dry spell, displaying delicate, low-growing six-petaled flowers that may be yellow, pink, white, orange or red, depending on species. Hardiness varies by species, but most can grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11. Once established, these plants require little care.

1 Choose a location for your fairy lily in full sunlight or partial shade, with rich, well-draining soil with a pH that is slightly acid to neutral. If you are planting multiple bulbs, provide at least 3 inches of space between bulbs.

2 Water generously to induce flowering after a dry period. If you do not provide supplemental watering during a drought, fairy lily will go dormant and lose its leaves until conditions are moist again.

3 Dig up and divide large clumps of bulbs with your shovel every two or three years in winter, when the plant is dormant. Divide clumps so that each division has three or more bulbs.

4 Check the tops and undersides of leaves for snails and slugs in the evening, when these pests are most active. Remove and destroy any you find.

Items you will need

  • Watering can or garden hose
  • Shovel

Tips

  • Fairy lilies do well when crowded into a container with moist, fast-draining soil.
  • Where hardy, fairy lily bulbs may be left in the ground over the winter to bloom again in the spring, so long as a thick layer of mulch is applied over the soil to help protect the bulbs from freezing.
  • Bulbs may be dug up in the fall, before the first frost of the season, dried, and stored in a cool location in slightly moist peat or vermiculite.
  • Many fairy lily species produce tiny bulblets at the base of the parent bulb. These "baby" fairy lilies may be removed and planted in a new location.
  • Fairy lilies do not benefit from fertilizing, according to the University of Florida Extension.

Warnings

  • The bulbs of fairy lilies contain the poisonous alkaloid lycorine, which can cause a host of poisoning symptoms if ingested by humans or animals. Keep bulbs out of the reach of children or pets, and warn children not to eat bulbs.
  • Fairy lilies are susceptible to red blotch, a disease that causes red streaks or blotches on leaves that are formed in cool damp whether. The disease is not harmful; it primarily affects the plant's appearance until the affected leaves are replaced.