What is a Fairy Lily?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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A fairy lily is a plant in the genus Zephyranthes. These plants are native to tropical and temperate regions of the western hemisphere and they are widely cultivated as ornamentals. Fairy lilies produce single large blooms with a prolonged blooming period and will return year after year if they are grown in the right conditions. Nurseries may carry seeds or bulbs and people can also propagate using divisions from other gardeners.

The fairy lily has grass-like foliage and does best in massed plantings, where the foliage will spread to cover the ground evenly before dying back in the fall. The single large bloom can be white to pink in color and has large, showy petals. Fairy lilies can be used along edges and borders in addition to being grown in massed plantings and containers. Like other bulbs, the fairy lily is well suited to container gardening and it has relatively easy growing requirements.

These bulbs are classified as semi-hardy and can be grown between United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones eight and 10. People in cooler regions can grow the lilies in containers and bring the container in during the winter months to avoid frost damage. They need rich, well-drained soil worked with some compost, and can benefit from a layer of mulch during the winter to insulate the bulbs and protect them from cold weather.


Also known as rain lilies because they tend to bloom in nature several days after a rainfall, fairy lilies can also be grown indoors. When growing indoors, it is advisable to select a warm area of the house with bright, indirect light. The fairy lily plants may be coaxed into flowering in the winter months by chilling the bulbs during the summer to trick them into thinking that the room temperature conditions indicate the arrival of spring.

If fairy lilies are established in rich, healthy soil, they can spread rapidly. It is advisable to dig up the plants and divide them after several years to prevent the bulbs from becoming crowded. Crowded fairy lily bulbs are more susceptible to disease and will also compete for resources, resulting in less healthy plants. Divided bulbs can be planted in containers and other areas of the garden, or they may be traded with other gardeners. Garden exchanges can be found in many areas and online to give people access to gardeners in distant regions with unique or interesting plant cultivars.



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