Crinum Flowers: How To Grow Crinum Lilies


By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

Crinum lilies (Crinum spp.) are large, heat and moisture loving plants, producing an abundant array of showy flowers in summer. Grown in gardens of southern plantations; many still exist in those areas, overtaken by swamps and bogs. The crinum plant is often referred to as the southern swamp lily, spider lily, or as a cemetery plant, indicating it was often used to adorn graveyards of centuries past.

Regaining popularity in the landscape, crinum is usually started from large bulbs, although growing plants can be found in nurseries as well. The crinum plant can also be grown from the large seeds it produces or by offsets called pups.

The crinum plant reaches 3 to 5 feet (1-1.5 m.) at maturity and the same around. Foliage is spirally arranged, coarse, and open. It is often used for a short, growing hedge where blooms and fragrance can be enjoyed. Locate crinum lilies in groups, spacing plants 4 to 6 feet (1-2 m.) apart. The coarse, draping foliage may appear unkempt, at which time the crinum plant can be trimmed, removing bottom leaves for a tidier appearance.

How to Grow Crinum Lilies

Plant the large bulbs in full sun or filtered light in early spring. As moisture helps this large plant become established, a few water retention pellets in the soil are useful when planting crinum lilies. A mound of soil around outer edges of the crinum plant helps in directing water to the roots. Bulbs should not sit in water, soil should drain well.

Crinum flowers appear in late summer, offering fragrance and large, showy blooms. They are available in a range of cultivars such as pink striped ‘Milk and Wine,’ and the white flowering ‘Alba.’

A member of the Amaryllis family, crinum flowers grow on rigid, sturdy spikes (called scapes). In warmer zones, crinum flowers persist for most of the year.

Most information indicates the crinum plant is limited to USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, where they function as evergreen perennials with long lasting flowers. However, the resilient crinum lily bulbs are known to exist and keep blooming for decades as far north as zone 7. The crinum plant performs as an herbaceous perennial in colder areas, dying to the ground in winter and shooting up with the daffodils and tulips in spring.

Though drought resistant in times of necessity, the crinum lily prefers consistently moist soil unless dormant. Plant a few of the large crinum lily bulbs for showy masses of flowers and fragrance in the landscape.

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Caring for the Crinum Lily With Style

Crinum Lilies are a bold addition to any home or garden. Crinum Lilies are a tropical plant and prefer lots of sun and a good amount of water. Make sure they get it, and you’ll benefit from this sweet-smelling perennial plant year after year. The bulbs can grow quite large and weigh up to 20 pounds, so dividing is best done during fall and winter months when foliage is smaller. It can take a few years for the bulb to establish and flower, but once it has, you will enjoy it for decades.


Crinum Lilies Captivate Gardeners

Crinum lilies bloom like crazy and come back year after year.

Tough as a mule, big as imagination, pretty as a summer dress, eternal as the sky. Those words describe crinums--also called hot country lilies. Forever, it seems, Southerners have cultivated, swapped, and rhapsodized about these bulbs, according them nearly legendary status. Yet, today, few people know anything about them. Greg Grant wants to change that.

This East Texas horticulturist recalls the first crinums he ever saw as a boy--classic milk-and-wine lilies characterized by drooping, perfumy white flowers striped with pink. "Every evening, we'd sit out on my grandmother's porch with clumps of crinums on either side," he says. "Their fragrance just enveloped us. It was the most pleasant thing on earth."

Their imposing blooms, gigantic bulbs, sweet scent, and agreeable nature captivated gardeners from the start. According to Bill Welch, a horticulture professor at Texas A&M University, these plants were among the earliest to be extensively hybridized.

Crinums - Perennial Favorites
Most hybrids entered the South from the Caribbean via Florida nurseries. Today, they thrive untended in cemeteries, country gardens, abandoned homesites, and poorer sections of town. However, a number of mail-order nurseries stand ready to supply your garden.

You Can't Kill Crinum Lilies
Tales abound extolling crinums' grit. "I've heard folks say, 'I've sprayed them with Roundup and run over them with my lawn mower, but I can't get rid of them,' " says South Carolina grower Jenks Farmer. Mississippi radio personality Felder Rushing recalls extracting his first crinums from the ground outside a tavern in Jackson. "I had to dig through 6 inches of broken beer bottles to get those bulbs," he recollects. Twenty years later, they bloom freely in his garden.

Given the obvious merits of crinums, why did they fall from favor? Greg traces the decline to the ascent of the Dutch bulb industry, as crinums didn't grow well in Europe. Plus, established crinums are hard to transplant. Old bulbs can weigh more than 20 pounds. (But most bulbs you buy weigh 1 to 2 pounds.)

"I once dug up a clump in Allendale, South Carolina, that was the size of a big TV," notes Jenks. "The bulbs were like small basketballs. We had to use a tractor."

How To Care for Crinum Lilies
Still, crinums are worth the effort. What other bulbs take sun or light shade, like wet or dry soil, bloom repeatedly from spring to fall, and live longer than Adam? Plant them in fall or spring, burying the bulbs up to their necks. They'll bloom quickly after soaking rains during the growing season. "When a flower fades, you can just snap it off, and new buds will keep opening up," adds Greg.

About the only factor limiting crinums is cold. Most hybrids do just fine from the Middle South on down. In the Upper South, stick with hardy crinum (Crinum bulbispermum), longneck crinum (C. moorei), and selections of C. x powellii. Mulching them in late fall provides extra insurance.

Plant Crinums Where You Won't Need to Move Them
They'll reward you for the rest of your life. Says Greg, "I've watched old homeplaces where the people die and the houses fall down. Their flowers disappear, and a once-in-a-hundred-years freeze kills the crepe myrtles. The only things left are the crinums. They're pretty darned eternal."

Bill Welch puts it another way: "No crinum has ever died."


How to Propagate Crinum Lily

Although crinum lilies bear the lily name, they are members of the amaryllis family. These showy and sturdy flowers are popular in warm regions, growing readily in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 10. When you provide crinum lilies with a sunny growing spot and frequent moisture, they will respond with tall stalks bearing luscious blossoms. The only suitable method for propagating crinum lilies involves dividing the underground bulbs and replanting them.

Spread the tarp on the soil near the crinum lily plant.

Dig up the crinum bulbs with the shovel in the spring. Insert the shovel approximately 6 inches away from the outside edge of the plant and push the shovel down into the soil. Continue working the shovel around the outside perimeter of the plant until you loosen the plant in the soil. Push the blade of the shovel underneath the bulb and carefully lift it out of the soil.

  • Although crinum lilies bear the lily name, they are members of the amaryllis family.
  • Spread the tarp on the soil near the crinum lily plant.

Place the bulb on the tarp.

Remove as much excess soil from the bulb as possible to allow you to see it clearly. Pull the smaller, outside bulblets from the center bulb with your hands or cut them off with the sharp knife. Each bulblet must have a stem protruding from it. Separate the large bulb into smaller sections with each section having at least one stem.

Plant the bulbs in the soil immediately to prevent them from drying out. Prepare planting areas for the propagated crinum lilies. Add 2 to 3 inches of compost over the top of the soil and work it in well with the garden spade. Dig holes for the divided bulbs to plant them at the same depth as they were originally growing.

  • Place the bulb on the tarp.
  • Add 2 to 3 inches of compost over the top of the soil and work it in well with the garden spade.

Water the newly propagated crinum lilies immediately after replanting them. Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the first month after dividing to ensure the new plants acclimate to the division. Expect a delay in subsequent blooms after dividing the crinum lily plant because the bulbs do not respond well to being disturbed.

Some gardeners call crinum lilies swamp lilies or spider lilies due to their desire for moisture and the shape of the blossoms.


About the Crinum Lily

The Crinum Lily is native to Southeast Asia. However, it has become a popular hallmark for gardens and planters in the United States. This elegant plant has many species and garden hybrids.

You’ll appreciate the colorful flowers this plant produces in the spring and summer months. Crinum Lily flowers have a sweet scent that will fill your home. The Crinum Lily is relatively resilient despite its delicate looking flowers.

Once settled, the Crinum Lily can do well with little care. Due to its perennial bulb, it will continue to grow year after year with little effort on your part.

When used for landscaping purposed the Crinum Lily can reach up to 3-5 feet in height. Potted Crinum Lily’s won’t grow quite as large.

According to The University of Florida, the Crinum Americanum is also referred to as the Swap Lily and works great near the bank of ponds and streams. Mix up your foliage with one of the purplish varieties of Crinum Lily.


Crinum Lily, Powell Lily

Category:

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Foliage:

Foliage Color:

Height:

Spacing:

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Danger:

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Bessemer City, North Carolina

North Augusta, South Carolina

Orangeburg, South Carolina

Gardeners' Notes:

On May 28, 2019, Hikaro_Takayama from Fayetteville, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I have attempted to grow these plants in southern PA twice before, without success, despite several reliable sources saying that they should be hardy to Zone 6. When I went to the last place I got them from, a nursery near Chincoteage VA, the owner told me that the secret for successfully overwintering hardy crinums (including Powellii) was to plant the bulbs deep, since crinums seem to prefer deep planting & will even work their way deeper (which is why the owner said, "you gotta dig halfway to China" to dig up old clumps).

I decided to buy two more potted C. x powellii from him last year, and did as he said, planting the bulbs about 18-24 inches (46-61 cm) deep, and didn't really give them any other protection last winter. Sure enough, around the beginning of May, all my. read more crinums started coming up, and are now almost fully leafed out.

The ones I got at Chincoteague seem to be one of the paler flowered varieties, because some were blooming when I first bought some 2 years ago, and the blooms were really pale pink that was almost white (but not quite). Even if it takes a while for mine to start blooming, I'm still happy to have them for the clump of tropical-looking foliage they produce, and have decided to get some more on my most recent plant-buying trip.

On Mar 21, 2018, dacoitdan from Lanexa, VA wrote:

Great Crinum for the novice. I bought five of these and five of the album (white) about 8 years ago as 1/2 price, medium sized bulbs to test their hardiness in my zone, learn what they like and see if I like them. I planted them in the corner of a border in full sun about a foot apart. It took them a year to bloom and they only put up one scape each the first time blooming. They gradually formed huge clumps with many offset bulbs that bloom profusely and not only put on a spectacular show, but re-bloom for about a month and a half. The foliage turns to mush after a good hard frost in my zone. I put down and inch pine needles on them and about three inches of pine bark chips for winter protection. They can take dry cold, but not wet cold. The pine bark helps keep the soil under dry. I learn. read more ed that I love Crinums and have been planting more fancy large flower varieties that will take up the rest of the border. This variety has smaller flowers than the white variety. That is my only complaint. The foliage can become unruly, so give it space and keep it away from walkways.I also learned gardening patience from these plants.
They are not for those who demand instant gratification, but they surely do reward those who can wait.

On Jan 28, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is one of the hardiest crinums. I've read several credible reports of this being reliably hardy in the ground to Zone 6 in Berrien Springs, MI, and to Zone 5b in Westfield, IN and Platte Co, MO.

I've also read that hardy crinum bulbs need to be at least two inches in diameter before planting if they're to make it through the winter near the northern limit of their hardiness, in this case Z5-6.

I've read several disparaging comments about the flowers of c. x powellii 'Roseum' being the smallest of crinum flowers and not worth the garden space that its prolific foliage requires---but I haven't grown it myself.

On Oct 20, 2006, raydio from Bessemer City, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

This is an old hybrid descended from C. moorei and C. bulbispermum. It was introduced as long ago as 1888.

It is generally sterile as a seed parent, but success with fertilizing other cultivars with the pollen has been reported.

While the commonly available form has flowers 2-3 inches wide, it is still humbly pretty and easy to grow. With care, it blooms repeatedly from spring to fall.

X powellii 'Roseum' sports flowers that are more open and have a deeper rose color.

'Cecil Houdyshel' (developed in the 1930s) is a very floriferous selection and 'Claude Davis' (a cross of x powellii and C. yemense) is a deeper color than x powellii.

There is a pure white one (x powellii 'Album', sometimes listed as 'Alba') which has. read more larger and more open flowers.

It is very easy to grow and is therefore a good beginners Crinum. It is hardy without protection here in 7b and would survive into zone 6 with some protection or in a warmish site.

On Aug 2, 2006, BamaBelle from Headland, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

I received three of these in pots. Before I could get them in the ground, they put up bloom stalks. Since crinums do not like to be disturbed, I decided to wait till they finished flowering before planting them. they are still flowering! And they have put up pups in the pots. One plant has six babies, another has four babies. The third plant is younger and has not bloomed nor put up pups.

In this part of the country, crinums grow like wildfire. Start a few in a bed, and before you know it, you have a full bed of crinums. But, they do NOT like to be disturbed. If you repot them or move them, do not expect them to bloom or pup for a while.

On Nov 5, 2004, rcn48 from Lexington, VA (Zone 6a) wrote:

We have Crinum powellii growing in our Zone 6a garden for the last 2 yrs. In fact, it is in bloom right now, Nov 5, 2004. granted, we have not had a frost yet this year, which is highly unusual. It begins blooming for us in the early summer, then again in the fall.

On Aug 29, 2004, StAndrew from Lutherville Timonium, MD wrote:

I purchased the bulb almost two years ago. It was a relatively small bulb, so I planted it in a 12 inch plastic container. The first year, it grew well enough I guess, but no flowers. I figured the bulb needed to mature, so it was no concern. I live north of Baltimore, so I let it over winter indoors near a window with southern exposure . watering just enough to keep it alive. It continued to grow, but more on the spindley side. The following spring, I cut it back to about six inches and gave it to a friend in Northest Ohio.

It is growing well with plenty of side shoots, but no sign of a flower stalk. It gets at least 8 hours of full sun and is watered well.

On Jun 27, 2004, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Beautiful foliage and blooms. I love the shade of pink they are. I got about half a dozen bulbs in trade about three years ago and have over 20 now.

These are SO easy to grow. I just put mine in the end of one of my raised vegetable beds with a little cow manure and they've taken off. They get absolutely no other fertilizer except cow manure. And they can take neglect just fine! I didn't plant the veggie garden last year, so they didn't even get watered. They didn't bloom much, but did survive remarkably well in our hot Texas summers despite being in absolutely FULL sun, like 9am to 9pm full sun.

This year, I've been taking better care of them (which means simply regular watering LOL!). Right now, the clump is about 5' or 6' in diameter. I wasn't . read more expecting them to be so big (Doh!), so I think I'll move them this fall.

On Dec 10, 2003, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

Hortus Third lists this plant as a hybrid of C. bulbispermum x C. Moorei with listed cultivars 'Album', Haarlemense', 'Krelagii' and 'Roseum'.

On Sep 2, 2001, eltel from Macclesfield, CHESHIRE (Zone 8a) wrote:

Crinum powellii, a native of southern Africa, produces a bulb up to 6 inches (15cm) in diameter from which emerge long (up 6 feet) strap like leaves, followed by a tall (up to 6’) flower spike. The spike will carry 8 to twelve individual pale pink flowers. A number of hybrids have been produced, including dark pink and white versions.


Crinum Lily 'Ellen Bosanquet'

Category:

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Foliage:

Foliage Color:

Height:

Spacing:

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual

Danger:

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Jacksonville, Florida(2 reports)

Pensacola, Florida(2 reports)

Zephyrhills, Florida(2 reports)

Baton Rouge, Louisiana(2 reports)

Concord, North Carolina(2 reports)

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Winston Salem, North Carolina

North Augusta, South Carolina

Gardeners' Notes:

On Apr 22, 2012, RandyRick from Dahlonega, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Ellen Bosanquet is polific and hardy here in north Georgia. A longer bloom cycle would make it almost perfect. I am growing numerous EB with many new offset bulbs.

Couple comments. There are now several other hybrids very similar to EB that do have slightly different characteristics. There are some strains of EB that produce some seed. Several strains developed by plantsman Tom Perry (ebay seedman01) include his cross of EB with crinum bulbispermum named (per IBS & PBS databases) Super Ellen which to quote him: "The 'Super Ellen' is very similar to ‘Ellen Bosanquet’ --- but is much larger in all respects and hardier. I believe this bulb has the same hardiness zone of a C. bulbispermum (zone 5). " A sister seedling from the same cross is the hybrid Sunbonnet which has more . read more upright foliage than its EB parent.

On Sep 30, 2008, seatick from Fruitland Park, FL wrote:

"Ellen Bosanquet" was developed by either Alfred or Louis Bosanquet (I cannot recall which one at this moment) and named in honor of their wife. It was developed in Fruitland Park, Fla. and is found all over the area. Very very hardy plant but the foliage will show signs of burning and the flowers "bleach" if grown in an area that receives a lot of hot sunlight. Divides like crazy but sets no seeds. As of yet it appears the pedigree of this plant is unknown as the horticultural records the Bosanquets kept at their home ("Fair Oaks") were lost in a fire many years ago. The descendants of the Bosanquets still live in the Leesburg/Fruitland Park area and own a flower shop on Main Street in Leesburg. The early members of this family were some of the original settlers of the area and were respo. read more nsible for introducing many of the plants that have been grown in the Central Florida area as landscape favorites down through the years, and even today.

On Apr 22, 2006, SudieGoodman from Broaddus, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Zone 8b, Lake Sam Rayburn, east TX

My Ellen Bosanquet is planted where it gets good sun. It is doing well in this soggy location. Many beautiful flower clusters in 2005. Clusters can be cut and enjoyed in your favorite vase for 7 days.
A wonderful addition to any garden.
Keep those bulbs blooming

On Jan 6, 2006, aprilwillis from Missouri City, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Beautiful flowers- it is drought tolerant, but also will grow in swampy conditions- I have several different crinum and all are lovely, easy to grow and there is always enough to share.

On May 27, 2005, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This may be the identity of a Crinum which I rescued from an overgrown vacant lot (that had clearly been a dumping ground for unwanted garden plants - it had lots of Canna, Xanthosoma, Philodendron, etc.) two years ago, and is flourishing in an area that is very wet in the summer in my Sebring, Florida garden. The leaves are more spreading than erect, somewhat wavy on the edges, and form rosettes only about 1 foot tall and 2 feet across. Anyone let me know if they think the photo I posted is not this particular Crinum.

On Oct 2, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

well known but not certain of origins, thought to be a cross between these two species and created in early 1900s in Florida by this person (Ms. Bosanquet). Very drought tolerant plant once established. Striking flowers all summer into the fall.


Watch the video: Crazy about Crinum Lilies and Spider Lilies!


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