The atamasco lily is a beautiful, fragrant and a perennial favorite wildflower throughout its range. Download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Atamasco lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca) are bulbous perennials with 4-6 flat, grasslike leaves to 16 in (40 cm) long and a quarter inch (6 mm) wide. The fragrant white flowers are funnel shaped, about 3 in (7 cm) long, 4 in (10 cm) across, and borne singly on a hollow scape (flower stem) about a foot (30 cm) tall. The six tepals are snow-white (sometimes tinged with pink) and surround six bright yellow stamens. The subterranean bulb is about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter.
Rafts of lovely white atamasco lilies announce the arrival of spring in moist open woodlands, meadows and along country roads throughout the southeastern U.S. from Virginia to Mississippi and the northern half of Florida.
Culture Light: These lovely lilies grow well in shade to part shade to full sun. Moisture: Atamasco lilies like a low, damp location, but won't survive if the soil is constantly water logged. They can withstand drought when they are dormant. When grown in too dry a soil, they may not flower at all. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-10. Atamasco lilies can be grown in cooler climates, but the bulbs will have to be mulched heavily or brought indoors during winter. Propagation: To propagate, divide the small bulblets from the mother bulb. The seeds can be planted as soon as they ripen, and will germinate quickly, but it will be 2-3 years before seedling plants produce their first flowers.
In late winter and early spring scores of atamasco lilies erupt from its green grassy foliage.
Atamasco lilies look best in masses. They can be grown right in the lawn where they will rise and flower in early spring before you have to begin mowing the grass. Grow rafts of atamascos in a woodland garden with trilliums (Trillium underwoodii), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica). Where not hardy, grow a half dozen atamasco lilies in a container on the deck or patio. Or, dig the bulbs before the first hard freeze and store the dried bulbs indoors until after the last spring freeze.
Atamasco lily is the earliest flowering and the hardiest of the 70 or so species of zephyr lilies, all of which are native to the New World. In fact, the genus name comes from the Greek, zephyros, meaning west wind, a reference to their origin in the Western Hemisphere from which they were first introduced to European gardeners in the 1800's. Other well known members of the amaryllis family include the crinum lilies (Crinum X powellii), the daffodils (Narcissus spp.), the surprise lilies (Lycoris squamigera), the spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) and the amaryllis lilies (Hippeastrum hybrids).
All parts of atamasco lily are poisonous if eaten.