Smith County Horticulturist
Most of the time, when flowering bulbs are mentioned, tulips and daffodils are what first come to mind. But, these heralds of early spring are not the only bulbs that dazzle and beautify Texas landscapes.
There's another set of flowering plants that grow from bulbs, corms and rhizomes that bloom in the summertime.
Crinums. Big and beautiful – that describes the summer blooming crinum lily. Large fountains of leaves erupt from the ground in early spring from large bulbs. After a summer rain, long stalks emerge, topped with fragrant clusters of flowers. There are several species and many varieties of crinums, but most flowers range from pure white, to pink, to shades of rose. Some crinums are white with dark rosy pink stripes, giving rise to another common name “milk and wine lilies.
There are usually a dozen or more flowers per stalk, and often several stalks will emerge on older plants.
Crinums are extra-hardy plants, tolerating prolonged dry periods, only to pop out another stalk of flowers after a drought-breaking rain.
However, they also tolerate boggy soils, too.
As I said, the bulbs can get big, very big, and they have a habit of pulling themselves deeper into the soil every year, which accounts for their ability to survive drought. But, that also makes them a challenge to dig up. If you don't get underneath the base of the bulb, you end up cutting off the top which will not grow.
I have dug bulbs that were over 2 feet deep.
Rain Lilies. This is a wonderful group of what some refer to as minor bulbs, but I think they make a major impact in the summer landscape! The two most common rain lilies are the white and pink rain lilies.
Zephyranthes grandiflora has rosy pink flowers, and like the white rain lily, shoots forth pink flowers after a summer rain. Its leaves are flat and kind of bluish-green. While they also produce offset bulbs, unlike the white rain lily which seems to be sterile, the pink rain lily produces lots of seed.
There are many more rain lilies, including a native yellowish-cooper rain lily that pops up just once in the summer after a rain. One of the best places to see these is along the Glenwood Street boulevard between Front Street and West Ewrin. They don't last long, but the banks become covered in yellow for a couple of days. These are best propagated by seed.
Achemines. Large violet flowers on trailing plants with dark green fuzzy leaves. This describes a delightful member of the gesneriad family, related to African violets and gloxinias. Achimenes, also called orchid pansies, are native to Mexico and Central America.
Formosa or Philippine Lily. This beautiful summer-blooming lily looks like an Easter Lily on steroids. It produces very tall shoots, which in late July and early August bear clusters of large, white showy flowers on top of the stems, sometimes reaching 6 feet tall. They make an exciting statement in the mid-summer garden, and continue to be interesting after the flowers fade as the upturned seedpods dry, looking kind of like candelabra. Depending on your flower bed design, the resulting numerous seedlings can be considered either a nuisance or a welcome addition for a cottage garden effect.
Keith Hansen is Smith County Horticulturist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. His webpage is http://EastTexasGardening.tamu.edu
His Blog is http://agrilife.org/etg Texas AgriLife Extension Service educational programs are open to all individuals without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age or national origin.