33 new rain lilies bred in the Philippines
FOR LANDSCAPERS looking for a new flowering plant that is low maintenance, with a diversity of colors to choose from, and can be tolerant to the varying climatic conditions in our local Philippine setting, this is your answer.
Rain lilies, popularly known as Zephyranthes, are the “Tulips” of the tropics. These grass-like bulb plants can grow up to about a foot tall and are originally from the southern parts of the United States of America, extending down up to the countries of Middle and South Americas.
Zephyranthes is a genus of temperate and tropical plants in the Amaryllis family, which includes the onions, chives, amaryllis other bulb crops. It is native to the Western Hemisphere and widely cultivated as ornamentals. There are over 70 recognized species as well as numerous hybrids and cultivars. They usually come in white, pink, and yellow flowers. Zephyranthes or Rain Lilies are commonly called fairy lily, rainflower, zephyr lily, magic lily, and Atamasco lily.
One man behind the breeding of this colorful and floriferous plant is Glanz Ang, a licensed Agriculturist, who graduated from Xavier University/Ateneo de Cagayan under the mentorship of Prof. Floro Dalapag. Ang is currently the biggest breeder of Zephyranthes in Southeast Asia.
According to Ang, “Zephyranthes grandiflora plays an important role in breeding of Zephyranthes hybrids in order to produce large pink blooms. Recent breeding programs done in the Philippines have developed various color forms from pin-wheel to round forms with flower size of up to 4 inches (10cm) across. Fasciated forms with double and triple layers have been developed as well.” There is certainly a vast array of floral colors from the 33 Philippine Zephyranthes hybrids developed. Ang explains that rain lilies are ideal and wonderful landscape plants, usually used as a ground
cover or as border plants. A large bulb is capable of producing up to 4 scapes at a time, each scape has a single flower that is held upright. A close planting of 2-3 inches apart gives a massive display of blooms 4-5 days after the rain. It can also be achieved by watering the bulbs mimicking the rain to produce flowers on a desired day. Each bloom last for 1-2 days. What the rain lily does not have is flower longevity; however, its ability to produce a large number of flowers compensates this limitation. Rain lilies are easy to grow and to maintain. It loves direct and full sun. It is also generally a low maintenance plant and is generally pest-free, making it ideal for landscaping. It also thrives with minimal feeding and watering. Monthly application of complete fertilizer supplemented with trace elements and secondary nutrients are more than enough to sustain heavy flowering. Watering can be done once a week or twice a month during dry season or not at all. Bulbs will just go dormant when dry, and springs back once they receive water.
Flowering in rain lilies is usually triggered by dry conditions followed by few days of rain. This makes it very interesting in the landscape demands where flowers can be forced when they are needed.
Rain lilies are also easy to propagate. Propagation may be done in several ways: (a) through seeds, (b) divisions, and (c) bulb chipping. Seeds may be harvested when the capsule starts to turn yellow and cracks open. Seeds do not need to dry before sowing. A well draining soil mix is preferred. Seeds will start to germinate in less than a week. It may take almost a year before the seedling starts to produce flower.
The easiest way of propagating rain lilies is through bulb division. This is done be removing offsets produced from the mother bulbs when they are big enough to handle and have rooted on their own. Offsets may take 4-6 months to bloom, depending on the size of offsets.
For varieties that do not produce offsets freely, bulb chipping may be practiced. This is done by chipping the bulbs across the basal plate into several sections. A fungicide treatment is necessary for this procedure. This technique takes about a year
for the bulb to bloom. BREEDING The technical part, Ang explains, is the breeding part. However, anyone who has a background in plant breeding could easily follow these simple steps.
The flower structure of a rain lily is composed of three sepals and 3 petals. Since the sepals and petals of rainlily look almost identical in shape and function the same to create a flower. They are known as tepals.
The pistil is the female floral part of the flower. It is composed of a style and stigma. Stigma is usually a flattened trilobed surface on the tipmost portion of the style.
There are usually 6 stamens in every flower. Each stamen is composed of filament and topped by anther. The anther is usually a long cylindrical shape that splits open after an hour of opening of the flower. The anther houses the pollen.
In breeding rain lilies, one must choose a good mother stock that is not an apomictic plant. Apomixis is the reproduction of seeds without fertilization and the resulting offspring will be identical to the mother plant. Once the desired mother plant is in bloom, the anther must be removed right after the flower open in the morning to avoid self pollination. Cross pollination is done by dusting the stigma with the desired pollen source. Fertilization is successful when the ovule starts to enlarge and develop into seedpod. Seedpods usually ripen in less than a month. Once the seedling has germinated and bloomed several times, selection process for superior seedlings starts. Selection will be based on the criteria a breeder has set. Undesirable seedlings will be culled. The selected seedling with good quality will be propagated but will remain for further evaluation. Once evaluated, the new cultivar is then multiplied for release to the general market.
Ang also cited the future breeding plans for rain lilies. Since double- and triple-layered blooms are already available, there are also now large-flowered rain lilies that measure up to 4 inches. So, the next thing to do is to make an improvement on flower longevity and a scented rain lily flower using Zephyranthes chlorosolen as one of the parents. This species emits an intense fragrance. The existing hybrids to date are only mildly scented.
There are currently 33 Philippine rain lily hybrid varieties developed by Ang, 28 of which were made available during the Horticultura Expo in Quezon City last February 2018. Many more varieties will be added and will be made available to the public. For those interested to acquire the Philippine rain lily hybrids, Ang can be contacted at his email below.
About the Breeder: Glanz Ang is a licensed Agriculturist who graduated from Xavier University/Ateneo de Cagayan under the mentorship of Prof. Floro Dalapag. Ang is currently the biggest breeder of Zephyranthes in Southeast Asia. He may be contacted through: glan[email protected], and at philippin[email protected] yahoo.com; mobile number (+63) 917 706-1838.
A flower bed of Philippine-bred rain lilies in the plant nursery of Glanz Ang (inset).
Macajalar Bay Sunset