Any tricks for getting copper lily to thrive?

bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)June 30, 2014

We've had a small group of copper [rain] lilies (Habranthus tubispathus) dwindle over the past few years. Photo shows a lone flower after the recent rains put up among no other signs of vegetation. Have started some from earlier seeds, but they also seem to have stagnated in the pot. Has anyone been able to convinced these Texas natives to thrive in blackland prairie clay? The non-native white rain lilies (zephyranthes candida) seem to naturalize very well around here (DFW).

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sunnysa(8)

Not a copper lily, but I received a 'Blackberry Lily' from DStartz and she said to contact her if I had any questions. My Blackberry Lily had some problems getting started, too. Maybe she can add to this post. Here is some info that I found helpful. It was on the Lily Garden:

"Look for a spot that is the first to dry out after rain. Lilies can be bothered by botrytis, a fungus that spots the leaves in prolonged cool, wet weather. This should not be a problem in the home garden if you provide for good air circulation and space the plants so that leaves can dry out easily after rain. If you do see brown spots on the leaves, use any fungicide recommended for roses."

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 8:23AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

sunnysa, Thanks - habranthus is a bit of odd duck (for me, anyway). No problem with brown spots on the leaves... there are simply no leaves for much of the year. They push up a single flower - usually after rain - and a few leaves follow once seeds have set. Two more came up after the previous photo and all three are now setting seed. They just don't seem to retain their sparse green foliage long enough to re-energize the bulb. We started with 8 or so three years ago, so number has dwindled by about half. Very easy to start from seed, but takes two years before bulbs are ready to transplant.

Exposure is mid-day sun with dappled shade in early morning and late afternoon. Soil is Blackland Prairie clay. We give them a light organic feeding a couple times a year. Drainage is good (near top of hill) and gets deep watering as needed with lawn (maximum once weekly Jun/Jul, twice weekly Aug/Sep).

Couldn't find much about their life-cycle, so could be that bulbs are just not long lived. Suppose photos of natural occurring mass "plantings" could be where they've simply seeded out over time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rio Grande copper-lily

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 12:10PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have seen a lawn of them in Austin that has been loaded with them for 30 years. I am always tempted to collect seeds before someone razes that small tarry town itsy bitsy bungalow and puts in a monster house.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:36PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Wantonamara, The pods set, split, and drop seed very quickly, so best to watch daily or bag them to catch the seeds before they're blowing across the ground.

A yard-full in bloom would be something to see. Have only seen them massed over an area of a dozen or so square feet when lucky to catch them during a drive through central Texas days after a rain. Since they're nearly invisible most of the year, I'm sure there have been many other spots they passed unknown. Depending upon the source, we (DFW) are in or just north of their native range. Would love to use them in the nooks of the borders or even in the lawn if could figure out what they need to naturalize around here.

Unfortunately our source for the Texensis variety bulbs has been depleted for a while. So, will keep coaxing the seeds along in pots until/if we can get the bulb numbers up enough to experiment in some other spots.

Here is a link that might be useful: Field of Habranthus tubispathus var Texensis

This post was edited by bostedo on Sun, Jul 13, 14 at 15:41

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:38PM
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ocgf(Z8)

Bostedo, maybe they need more sun? I got some of them today from Barton Springs Nursery (Austin). I assume they like similar conditions like Zephirantes, so I plan to plant them in the same area.

Omar

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:27PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Omar, Could be right about them needing more sun, though our zephyranthes is thriving with similar exposure. We'll experiment when the seed starts get bigger or we find another source. Thanks for confirming BSN has them, will remember to check next time we get by there.

Unlike zephyranthes, habranthus tubispathus (var Texensis?) does not quickly produce offsets, so most propagation occurs by seed rather than division. Helps explain the fields of distributed volunteers rather than clumps of flowers... and possibly why the commercial supply is so sporadic. They germinate very well in a pot, but either our garden conditions are not right for self seeding or the slugs+ have been getting them early.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:21AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Last week's 1.25+ inch rainfall prompted another seven copper lilies to bloom - which is the most going at once since they were planted 3 years ago. Seems I should have waited another three weeks before starting this thread.

Only had 1 to 3 bloom at a time last year, so looks like it takes a pretty solid rain event to set most of them off together. At least seven of the original eight bulbs are still going. Three of the new flowers came up adjacent to the previous scapes, so appear to be offsets (yay!)..... but still no sign of leaves on any. Guess they are actually "thriving" as well as can be expected, just more ephemeral than anything else in our garden.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:33PM
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ocgf(Z8)

I think that we, gardeners, mess up with their natural inner clocks when we provide supplemental water.

Omar

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:16PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Imagine irrigation probably does affect their timing, though have never been able to fake any type of rain lily into blooming in the garden with tap water. Pretty sure there is some key trace chemistry the water utilities don't get quite right. Anybody know if well water can do it? How about harvested rainwater..... or does it go "stale"?

My wild guess is that the partial/randomized flowering is something that evolved as one of their species survival attributes.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:23PM
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annieinaustin(z8 Austin)

My little copper lily patch also went down to one flower this July. I think it's because the area has become more shady as a live oak that was young when we moved in has bulked up over 10 years.
Guess it's time to try to buy more.

I've read that rainlilies can't be triggered by water alone but they also need a change in atmospheric pressure. (That's on Neil Sperry's website but I've seen that theory somewhere else, too.)

Annie in Austin

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 12:34AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Annie, Atmospheric pressure change makes sense. Reminded me of seeing somewhere that greenhouse rain lilies will bloom if watered while it's raining. Don't know if it's true, but fits if both moisture and pressure change are necessary. Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 3:19PM
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annieinaustin(z8 Austin)

I don't know if watering rain lilies when it's raining is true either bostedo, but it would be worth trying next time we get a hint of drizzle!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 7:37PM
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