Reds After the Rain

As happens every August and September, flower stalks of the perennial bulb Oxblood or Schoolhouse Lily, Rhodophiala bifida, have emerged. These bright pops of color appear, seemingly overnight, after the first few soaking late summer rains. This particular group lives among some Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima. The still green, but turning autumn-toasty feathery grass, contrasts with the deep red, dainty lilies, creating a charming scene.

So far, this is the only Schoolhouse Lily group that has awakened from its underground bed, but I’m confident that in coming weeks, other red surprises will reach up for a share of sunshine and a howdy! from pollinators. The individual blooms don’t last long, only a few days, but I’ve planted various bulbs around my garden and they appear, as they choose, at different times, allowing for a longer period in which to enjoy the pretties. Once the blooms fade, strappy foliage will stay green, disappearing in late spring as the temperatures rise. This Amaryllid was most likely introduced in Texas by a German colonist and botanist, Peter Heinrich Oberwetter (1830-1915). He imported R. bifida bulbs from Argentina and it has naturalized successfully in many parts of the state, especially here in Central Texas.

Another Amaryllis bulb making its flowery appearance after late summer rains is the Red Spider Lily, also called Guernsey Lily–Lycoris radiata. These stunning flowers, with their curled petals and spidery stamens, are showstoppers.

Like the Schoolhouse Lily, Red Spider Lily flowers emerge from buried bulbs after an August or September rain and sit atop fleshy stems . The stems of L. radiata are taller and the flower is larger than those of R. bifida. Both rock stunningly rich red accents in the garden.

This group of Red Spider Lilies produced five stems with flowers. The stems are single, with no foliage emerging until the flower has faded. Like the Schoolhouse Lily, the foliage will be evergreen through winter and spring, disappearing with warmer temperatures. The bulbs stay safe from summer’s heat in deep soil, needling little water through the summer months.

The foliage you see in both photos comes from a Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis. The Pigeonberry and Spider Lily are accompanied by a couple of Glo Coalson’s raku pigeons. I thought the Pigeonberry needed some pigeon friends. Also, these pigeons don’t poop.

Our blisteringly hot summer has somewhat abated and we’ve recently received 4-5 inches of rain. We’re still in an official drought, but the slightly cooler temperatures and the rain are most welcome by the garden and this gardener. Along with these reliable late summer bulb bloomers, everything in the garden is breathing a sigh of relief–greening up and flowering out–demonstrating their appreciating for the rain.

13 thoughts on “Reds After the Rain

  1. The rain we got clearly worked for you. Out on the prairie east of here two days ago I saw a tall goldenrod plant whose buds were just barely beginning to open. Do you have any goldenrod in your yard, and if so, does it look like it’s about to pop?


  2. Getting a lot of rain the last day and a half with more to come but most of our gardens are finishing their season with a few exceptions. The Cannas are bright red now like your plants, the Dahlias deep purple, and the asters are prolific as they always are. Of course it is the midst of goldenrod season and, sadly for many, ragweed has yet to bloom so that is waiting. Those spider lilies are spectacular.


    • When will you get your first freeze? We’re heading into what we call our ‘second spring’–a burst of blooming that typically lasts through October. It’s our reward for summer. 🙂


      • We can see a frost in late September some years and a killing frost in late October although with the climate changing it’s hard to say what to expect any more.


  3. I’ve seen several people reporting that those schoolhouse lilies have appeared in their yards. The first time I saw them was in Arkansas, in October — they’d spread across an entire lot across from the library. I know there are some at the Armand Bayou Nature Center, too — at least, there have been in the past.

    You’re right that everything is happier. Our crepe myrtles are setting a second bloom, and many of the shrubs now have bright green new foliage contrasting with their deep green, older leaves. And lizards? Oh, my, there are lizards! Mosquitoes, too — which I suppose makes the lizards and such happy for the changes brought by the rain.


  4. Fabulous flowers both, and I’m so happy you got some rain! To my knowledge, we haven’t had much here yet, but then, I just returned, so I don’t really know. But, the nights have cooled off enough that we have significant morning dew, which I imagine the plants appreciate – even if it’s not the blessed gift of rain. Yet.


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