Zephyranthes and winter storage

Started by Bob Hoel, October 19, 2022, 02:26:40 PM

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Bob Hoel

I am fast running out of room to bring plants into the greenhouse for yet another Chicago winter.  Next year I will be dividing Zephyranthes and sending some to the BX.  Until then, I need to store them for the winter.  Can they survive a period of dormancy during the winter where I would put the pots under the bench and not water them for several months?  Or do they need a little water but still under the bench?  I no longer have room to keep them on the benches....the bromeliads and orchids have pre-empted their space.  I suspect that taking them out of the pots and letting them dry like tulips is out of order.


Hello Bob,

I really know this problem.....
Are your plants still green? Many Zephyranthes and Habranthus do not really go fully dormant in winter. In that case I would give them small amounts of water from time to time. Not too much to prevent rot, mildew and the like. If you grow Bromelia and orchids in the same greenhouse a position under the bench may be warmer than just frost free? If they go fully leafless I would keep them dry. It is indeed much better to leave the bulbs in the substrate in their pots, this prevents the roots from drying out completely even if the substrate is dry.
Hope that helps 

Algarve, Portugal
350m elevation, frost free
Mediterranean Climate

Bob Hoel

Thanks, Uli.  The plants are fully green at the moment but that is in part because they have been receiving regular watering.  I will begin withholding water to encourage dormancy and store them on a rack below the benches.  The pot storage that you have described is what I have been doing with my Alocassia, Ornithogallum and Ismene and they do quite well.



We had a minimal conversation about dormancy with Zephyranthes a bit ago in another thread.  For close to 10 years, I've allowed mine to go completely dormant over the winter, no light, sited above the lights at about 65 degrees F.  Rimmer noted that his were kept more active, with some ambient light, and, if I remember correctly, they bloomed.  We both use artificial light (T-5 and LED), without greenhouse conditions.  I believe Rimmer is in a warmer zone and keeps his plants in a slightly different growing cycle.  Both of us keep them in the pots.  Mine take a while to wake up in spring, but begin blooming well by mid-summer.  

Would keeping them a more active/semi-dormant during winter bring earlier summer blooming?  Suggestions about this would be VERY welcome.  

Does anyone keep them active all year?  Is there a decrease in vigor if dormancy is not given?  

I have a few cultivars that I received (very dry) last month that were only recently potted but are now growing.  Any suggestions about keeping them in growth all winter through next summer?  

How about fertilizer?  I do use it, any regime that folks here use to get better/more/more frequent blooming?  

I've done a lot of reading and long term bulb growing, but I'm interested in what others are doing.  It's always good to get another opinion!

Interlaken, NY Zone 6

Jeron Chamberlain

I grew my first rain lilies this past year.  I live in the Sacramento California Area where it barely gets down to freezing.  I stored my one pot out on the front porch during the winter.  The porch has a roof, but is open to the weather on one side.  This way the pot didn't get rained on and did not experience any frost, due to the roof over the porch.  They received very little water during the winter, but the leaves remained.  It wasn't until spring that the leaves died back.  I started watering them again at the beginning of July and they bloomed all at once within just a few days.  This is consistent with Liberto Dario's notes on growing these in a Mediterranean Type Climate.


My Zephyranthes were planted in a bed next to the sidewalk, with winter rain (San Francisco, temps to near freezing), and intermittent tree rain from the fog the rest of the seasons. No big bursts of flowering, but frequent flowers, and in leaf most of the time.


Last week the gophers cleared the bed entirely, all the Zephyranthes and the summer Ixias, just bits of gnawed leaves mixed with the soil...all without breaking the soil surface. I'll have to think about I want to do with the sidewalk strip. More pots set in the ground, or custom hardware cloth.

in cool, pleasant SF...geophyte aroids going down slowly...fall seed is starting to come up

Steve Marak

Bob, same problem here in NW Arkansas, where they're only hardy in medium or mild winters. I only grow a few species, but I've been able to dry them out going into fall, then store the mostly dry pots under benches in the greenhouse until spring. They get a little drip from above which keeps them from desiccating, and don't seem to mind as long as I don't forget them in the spring. (And a couple have forgiven me even that.)



I live in Southern Kentucky Zone 6b and grow most of my rain lilies in long narrow fish boxes using waste potting soil. Each box has a separate cultivar or species. I typically put them outside on gravel in spring and apart from removing the odd volunteer and placing it in the correct box a d collecting seeds, i do nothing to them all summer. 

 They are still outside now in early November. So far we have not has a killing frost, though several were predicted a month back. At that time i covered them with frost blankets ( floating row cover) held down with rocks.  

A killing frost is slated for next weekend and i may have to move these into the attached unheated garage. They are currently well hydrated from recent rains.

Before i take them inside i spray the boxes, top and bottoms with Talstar or Safari (whichever i am using at the time) to prevent mealies or other nasties from invading the garage.

In the past, i have placed the long narrow fish boxes full of rainlilies on the concrete garage floor under tables where the only light they receive is ambient or reflected light from T-5 lights on nearby shelves. I do not water them all winter, but they keep growing green leaves until about late winter when the soil is completely dry.  The thermometers on the shelves under the lights indicates the garage gets down to about 48-55F (8-10C) at night and can get to 80F (27C) under the lights in the day. I presume the cold concrete floor is colder. 

To keep the garage cool the garage doors which face west, are kept opened most days when it is above freezing and sunny (which is most of the time in winter). 

Photo of the rain lilies now outside. 

Latitude: +36.99028 (36°59'25.008"N)
Insolation: 5.85 to 1.64 kWh/m2/day


All the rainlilies are safely inside for the winter
Latitude: +36.99028 (36°59'25.008"N)
Insolation: 5.85 to 1.64 kWh/m2/day


I have kept mine in both growth (occasional water in my frost-free barn with a little light) and also completely dormant in cool, dark conditions.  I find they jump into growth more readily with even the minimal attention of a few light waterings and little light.  
Uli's recommendation is spot on.