Clumps of grassy, 1- to 112-ft.-long leaves give rise to slender, hollow stems, each bearing a single funnel-shaped flower with six segments. Flowers of some kinds resemble lilies; those of other types look like crocuses. In the wild, flowers bloom after a rain (hence the common name rain lily), and they may appear in the garden after a good soaking. These are old-timey passalong plants. Deer don't bother with them.
Need little care. Pretty in rock garden or foreground of border. Excellent pot plant for patio or greenhouse. Plant in early summer; set bulbs 12 in. deep, 3 in. apart. In the Upper South, mulch hardier species heavily over winter. Container plants bloom better when somewhat pot-bound.
Z. atamasca. ATAMASCO LILY. Semievergreen. Native to the Southeast. Blooms in midspring, with pink-striped buds opening to fragrant, crocuslike, pure white flowers to 3 in. long. Florida native Z. a. treatiae (Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11), has grasslike leaves and pure white, crocuslike flowers that open from red buds; blooms two to four weeks before the species.
Z. candida. WHITE RAIN LILY. Evergreen. From Argentina and Uruguay. Glossy, crocuslike flowers are 2 in. long, pure white outside, tinged with rose inside, borne on stems as long as the leaves. Blooms in late summer, early fall.
Z. carinata. PINK RAIN LILY. Deciduous. From Central America. Lilylike, rose-pink, 4-in.-wide flowers bloom on 8-in. stems in summer. Blossoms open out flat at midday, close by afternoon.
Z. citrina. YELLOW RAIN LILY. Deciduous. From tropical South America. About the same size as Z. candida and blooms at the same time, but the fragrant blossoms are deep yellow.
Z. drummondii. GIANT PRAIRIE LILY. Deciduous. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Native to the Texas Hill Country and Mexico. Large (4-in.), fragrant, lilylike, pure white flowers open in the evening. Blooms most heavily in early spring, then sporadically through late summer, fall. 'San Carlos Form' and 'Fedora' are Mexican selections.
Z. flavissima. Deciduous. From Brazil and Argentina. Resembles Z. citrina, but with brighter green leaves and canary-yellow flowers. May remain evergreen with sufficient summer water.
Z. hybrids. Deciduous. Most widely offered is 'Ajax' (a cross between Z. candida and Z. citrina), a free-flowering plant with light yellow blossoms. Other hybrids available from mail-order specialists include 'Alamo', with deep rose-pink flowers flushed yellow; 'Apricot Queen', yellow blossoms stained pink; 'Batik', apricot flowers centered in yellow; 'Big Dude', large white flowers blushed pink at the tips; 'Heart Throb', dark pink flowers with a white eye; 'Krakatau', bright red-orange with a yellow center; 'Prairie Sunset', large light yellow blooms suffused with pink; 'Ruth Page', rich pink blooms; and 'Tenexico Apricot', rich apricot flowers that turn pale pink on their second day of bloom.
Z. macrosiphon. Evergreen in warmer part of range. From Mexico. Similar to Z. grandiflora but produces smaller (nearly 3-in.), rich pink flowers, comes into flower a little earlier, and continues blooming over a longer period. Full sun or partial shade.
Z. reginae. Deciduous. From Mexico. Bears 212-in., crocuslike yellow flowers in midsummer; blossoms open bright yellow, then fade to cream on the second day. Originally sold as 'Valles Yellow'.