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This is an old fashioned, but very rewarding garden plant. Zantedeschia is named after Professor Zantedeschi, probably Giovanni Zantedeschi, 1773-1846, an Italian physician and botanist. The flowers are faintly scented and this attracts various crawling insects and bees which are responsible for pollinating the flowers. The spathe turns green after flowering and covers the ripening berries. It rots away when these are ripe and the succulent yellow berries attract birds, which are responsible for seed dispersal. The rhizome is large and eaten by wild pigs and porcupines and the ripe fruit enjoyed by birds. Raw plant material causes swelling of the throat because of microscopic, sharp calcium oxalate crystals. The leaves are used as a poultice and a treatment for headaches. May be used as a marginal plant along streams, or on the edge of a pond. Plant in partial shade if there is no permanent water. It can be planted as a foliage plant in deep shade under trees but will not flower well in this position. It is fast growing and likes very rich, well-drained conditions. It is an excellent cutflower and lasts a long time in water. Nowadays there are other forms of this species which will enliven an old theme. There is also an attractive form with leaves spotted white. Requires consistently moist soil.
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 Lily. Most are spring or summer flowering.
Cultivation from seed is easy in this group. Seeds are papery and can be floated but they sprout very easily sown under just a thin covering of sowing medium. Sow the seeds in a well-drained mix and keep in a warm place. The seedlings will grow well in warm weather and respond well to fertilizer. As with any papery seeded amaryllids, these have a relatively short viability period.
Zephyranthes pulchella - Showy Zephyrlily - is found in the coastal prairies and wet roadsides of eastern Texas and Gulf Coast Louisiana. The leaves grow through the winter and spring and die off in summer; flowering occurs in autumn. Leaves are linear and sedge-like and flowers are golden yellow. Pulchella means "pretty". These spectacular rain lilies growing in the highway medians near Refugio, Texas, on the east coast of that state. The glossy green leaves serve as a nice foil to the bright yellow flowers that are held just atop the foliage. The vigorously multiplying clumps flower for us from late summer into fall.
Zephyranthes flowers are very similar to Habranthus flowers and both are called rain lilies. Habranthus flowers point upward BUT at an angle and have unequal stamens, and Zephyranthes flowers point straight up and have equal stamens. Zephyranthes flowers tend to be star shaped and Habranthus have somewhat irregular flowers. Additionally, the seeds of Habranthus are slightly winged (and thicker).
Zinnia elegans, Youth-and-old-age, is the most commonly grown kind along with its many different varieties.