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

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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

Rio grande copperlily
Habranthus tubispathus

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