Their little, green noses were just beginning to poke up last week, and a few early birds had already bloomed and faded. And then three and a half inches of rain soaked into the soil last weekend, and yesterday—like magic!—the oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) were standing at attention, each clump a cheery bouquet of red trumpets accented with yellow stamens.
I might have missed them entirely except that I followed our dog Cosmo into the back garden, taking a break from the computer, and the blaze of crimson made me stop and gasp—and run back inside for my camera.
The flowers are sturdy, but they don’t last more than a couple of days. So enjoy them when you see them! To paraphrase Robert Herrick, “Gather ye lilies while ye may, old time is still a-flying; And the same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying.”
Native to Argentina, oxblood lilies were introduced to Texas by German settlers. As with the Germans, they found central Texas to their liking. They naturalize well here, hiding out during the hot, dry summer and popping up with the first rains of fall.
Oxblood lilies make great passalong plants, and you’ll often see them blooming in older Austin neighborhoods. They like well-drained soil and sun to part sun. Mine are definitely blooming better where they get more sun.
If you live in zones 7-10, give them a try; currently you can find them online at The Southern Bulb Co., which says they can even be grown in zone 6.
Divide them every few years, after the blooms fade, to increase your supply. The strappy leaves, which appear after the flowers finish their show, stay green all winter but die back when the heat returns. Tucked away in summer dormancy, oxblood lilies will return with the fall rains.
Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.
All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.