Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - May 03, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Pruning, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Lilies not blooming from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Last December 8, you published a letter in the Statesman that I had written to you regarding Rain Lilies, Oxblood Lilies, and Copper Lilies. The were sprouting in my garage in a bag. You recommended planting them right away. I did that and they immediately sent up vigorous greenery. The greenery remains. but they never flowered. They are now looking straggly! Should I expect them to bloom this year? I suppose that I shouldn't trim back the leaves, or can I?

ANSWER:

This is the previous answer we believe you are referring to. Actually, we publish only to our own Mr. Smarty Plants website. The Austin Statesman sometimes publishes some of our answers, but we don't ordinarily even know about it until we get questions from readers.

As the writer of the previous answer pointed out, the Oxblood Lily is native to Argentina and therefore falls out of our area of expertise. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow naturally. From Masters of Horticulture, here is an article on Oxblood Lilies which may explain their failure to bloom, including the fact that they bloom in the Fall.

If you follow this link to our website on Habranthus tubispathus (Copper lily) , you will find these Growing Conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Various somewhat moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Flowers after the rains of late summer and fall. Very showy when planted in groups where flowers make a mass of color after rains."

Note that they need sun (6 hours or more of sun a day) and bloom in the Fall, after it rains. Or perhaps we should say if it rains.

Here are the Growing Conditions for Cooperia pedunculata (Hill country rain lily):

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Clay. Clay Loam. Medium Loam. Sandy Loam. Limestone-based. Caliche type.
Conditions Comments: These bulbs produce blue-green grass like leaves with slightly fragrant, shimmering flowers, mainly in spring, that have a color that evolves over two days from white to silky light pink. Rain lilies make for nice surprises after a rain and combine well with plants that have short foliage, such as cardinal feather and silver ponyfoot. In flower beds, meadows, and pots, these rain lilies grow easily from bulbs. The flowers will last a little longer in shade. Plant 8 inches deep for more flowers. Plant 4 inch/shallow to increase the bulbs. This species typically blooms in the Spring, while C. drummondii blooms in the Fall."

This is also a plant that needs rain to bloom. Both the native plants are perennial and ordinarily we don't expect a perennial to bloom until its second year after planting. There are apparently different depths at which to plant these bulbs for best results, and, again, they need RAIN. Don't we all?

You will notice that both need moist soils, so perhap they are straggly from dry soils. As for trimming them back, we do usually recommend trimming back perennials in the Fall, but we would certainly wait until they have bloomed to do so. Plants need to bloom in order to reproduce themselves, and need the leaves to manufacture food for the energy to bloom.

Prescription: Patience and perhaps a little rain dance.

 

From the Image Gallery


Hill country rain lily
Cooperia pedunculata

Copper lily
Habranthus tubispathus

More Propagation Questions

Planting wildflower seeds in a drought in Grimes Co. TX
November 03, 2010 - I have a dilemma, shared by others I'm sure. My place, which is in Oakland prairie, has seen no real rainfall since sometime in August, and the soil (sand, loam, and blackland clays)is extremely dry....
view the full question and answer

Can Gaura coccinea be transplanted
June 14, 2008 - Hello, I had Gaura coccinea growing on my property when I lived in Albuquerque. I have been looking for it for years to plant in my xeric aroma garden. Taking a walk yesterday I found some in a ditch ...
view the full question and answer

Grapes Grown from Seed
July 21, 2006 - Can mustang grapes be grown from seed? If so, how is the best way and when is the best time to do it?
view the full question and answer

Propagation of native Ohio buckeye from seed
September 25, 2008 - My granddaughter has collected "buck eyes"; can we plant them to start our own tree? If so, how do we go about it!
view the full question and answer

Dividing non-native daffodils from Austin
April 15, 2012 - The foliage on my daffodils is lush and healthy, but I have no blooms. Should I divide them?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.