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Crinum lily bulbs… they’re exotic, related to the Amaryllis plant, with exciting “bell-shaped” fragrant flowers, that come with a lovely sweet scent.
Crinum Lily Plant Facts
- Origin: South Africa
- Family: Amaryllidaceae
- Botanical Name: Crinum
- Common Name: None sometimes called “spider lily”
- Plant Type: perennial plant and sun-loving bulb
- Size: 24″ inches to 6′ feet tall and wide
- Flowers: large fragrant flowers in white to pink to wine-red
- Bloom Time: late spring and summer
- Hardiness: USDA hardiness zone 6b – 11 depending on the variety
- Exposure: Sun-loving plants
- Soil: rich, moist soil
- Water: drought tolerant but do better well watered
- Fertilizer: balanced liquid fertilizer during growing season
- Propagation: division of side shoots
- Pests & Problems: grasshoppers and aphids
From the Greek the name Crinum simply means “Lily.” By all the looks and feel Crinum plants have all the characteristics of a lily.
These plants have all the typical “periods” we find in the lily family:
- Definite rest period
- Exact growth period
- Certain flowering period
Big Long Necked Crinum Lily Bulbs
Crinum asiaticum (also known as Crinum amabile or crinum amoenum) is one of the largest of all bulbs at maturity, with a leek-like base up to eight inches in diameter and giant leaves up to four or five feet long and six inches broad. It is an important landscape plant in Florida.
Bulbs of Crinum lilies are much larger than bulbs of its relative the Amaryllis (amaryllidaceae). Roundish, with a long tapering necks, bulbs of a crinum can be 12″-16″ inches in length.
Generally, the leaves thin and long with “silky” feel to them and some crinum lily varieties having edges which are wavy.
The flowers are unique and beautiful, but even with the flowers the crinum is a handsome decorative plant which can get very large.
Because of their size crinum lilies do require more room than the ordinary amaryllis bulbs. They are among the most interesting and rewarding of the amaryllis types to grow in a garden.
Multiple Flowers Together
The long, slim flower stalks push themselves high above the elegant leaves to display their wares.
A stalk of flowers blooms for weeks, however, individual flowers last but only a few days. Sometimes, flower stalks will continue to follow the old one coming into sight one after another, extending the bloom parade.
Rapid Flower Stalk Growth
Not as fast as bamboo… but flower stalks on crinum lilies bloom quickly. From nowhere to a 24-inch stalk surprisingly fast. Sitting atop is a full accompaniment of fat flower buds.
Flowers in groups of 6-10, curving at the edge, some bell-shaped, some curved and some spidery looking.
Crinum Lily Care
Crinums can be unpredictable. When they bloom depends on “their” rhythm. They can bloom in the spring, winter or summer. It all comes down to each bulb after it has had it’s rest period.
Crinums in The Landscape
It is true that many lily crinums require more room than ordinary amaryllis type bulbs. But Crinums are among the most interesting!
Growing Crinum plants outdoors in the landscape is fairly easy in USDA zones 7-10.
Crinum plants have been called an “anti-social” since they do best when they do not compete with other plants in the garden. They can grow to be very old.
They demonstrate their low-maintenance by thriving untended in old country gardens, abandoned homesites and neglected cemeteries.
They perform best in full sun (but not burning sun, partial shade from the extreme heat of the sun) so give them all they can get, and a well-draining soil.
Fertilize twice a year with a balanced fertilizer. They make wonderful specimens and very attractive pool plants for landscaping by a pool.
One of the most beautiful of all the “spider lilies” is the beautiful ‘Queen Emma Plant’ Crinum lily. It’s strappy leaves reach a height of about 5 feet tall with sweet-scented flowers.
Queen Emma Lily makes a nice centerpiece in the garden with handsome foliage even when not in flower. For best performance, provide full sun.
The “Giant Spider Lily” As Potted Plants
Crinums thrive in normal temperatures found in most homes. They are sensitive to cold and drafts.
When going into their hibernating period, crinums do not always die back. Generally, they do but not always. If that is the case, water the plant very lightly.
As new growth starts, cut off the old leaves. Turn the pot on its side and wait for signs of the plant to wake up and start growing again.
Repotting Giant Crinums
When the top of the bulb begins to have green tips, the crinum is moving into its growing period. Now is the time for repotting… remember – Large bulb – large pot.
Do not bury the bulb, but leave part of the bulb above the soil. After repotting, thoroughly water the plant, then wait until growth begins before watering again.
Once the plant begins growing, water the plant on a regular basis allowing the soil to dry out some between each watering cycle.
Using a complete liquid fertilizer like a 20-20-20, use a liquid food on a regular basis (monthly) during the growing season.
After its growth and flowering period, force the plant back into its rest period by gradually reducing watering.
Propagating Bulbs & Sideshoots
In the summer, offshoot bulbs should develop on the “mother plant.” If the growing container is large enough – allow the bulbs or shoots to develop and leave them on.
In the spring when repotting, the new shoots should have developed their own roots. Carefully remove the shoots to start more plants. Pot and water them the same way as described above.
Jenks Farmer specializes in swamp lilies in South Carolina (jenksfarmer.com).
According to Jenks, drought tolerant crinums can grow all across the United States, from Virginia south, across the south, through Texas, and into California.
In this video, you’ll learn how to dig and divide massive Crinum Lily Queen Emma bulbs in your garden and how long to expect them to take to grow back.
Growing Bulbs From Seed
The patient flower lover who likes to grow things can gain a deal of interesting experience in lily crinum culture raising them from seed. Crinum asiaticum, from the tropical Pacific area, seeds freely and has been known to flower in two or three years from seed with special treatment.
Crinum Lily Pest and Problems
Gardeners love crinum lilies as they are rarely attacked by insects. But if an attack is discovered, begin to fight back immediately.
Aphid may be a problem for time to time. A good blast of warm (not hot) water should knock them of. If that does not work try the natural insecticide neem oil for plants or an insecticidal soap.
Outdoors or in the garden, grasshoppers can be an issue during different times of the year. For best results pick them off, try using Diatomaceous earth (DE) or use a spray like Sevin.
Crinum bulbispermum (formerly known as Crinum longifolium or Crinum capense) an old bulb from South Africa, is the hardiest species known and will bloom four or five times in the Spring in the lower South, starting in February.
Farther north the blooming season comes later in the year. The flower stems are two to three feet tall.
The individual blooms are delicately trumpet-shaped flowers with segments about four inches long, white with more or less red striping or red flush on the exterior.
It requires good, rich loam and likes a dressing of manure now and then. It does better on well-drained soil than in heavy wet places.
Crinum moorei, a native of southern Natal, has large roundish bulbs with long, heavy tapering necks.
With protection, it can probably be planted considerably far up the Atlantic gulf coastal area, but would require deep planting to avoid cold injury to the neck.
In Florida, it can be grown with good results with the bulb practically sitting on top of the ground.
Crinum moorei is one of the most graceful and elegant crinums, with light pink flowers and bright green, spreading leaves in a whorl at the top of the long neck.
The plant is deciduous and loses its leaves in the Fall far south. It flowers in Summer, likes rich soil and plenty of moisture.
The flowers are campanulate, borne in large umbels, with long pedicels and tubes.
Lesser Known Crinum Species
Other popular crinum species worth trying in any collection are:
First, Crinum seabrum, with wide-open, amaryllis-like flowers, white and striped scarlet
Crinum giganteum, a rare pure-white African species, having wide-open tulip-like flowers
Crinum americanum, (swamp lily) a sturdy and half-hardy, stoloniferous kind, with white, star-like flowers
Crinum augustum, also known as the Queen Emma Crinum Lily
Crinum pedunculatum, commonly known as the Southern Swamp lily or River Lily. Very similar to Crinum asiaticum but smaller, with broader leaves.
Crinum procerum, Rich, purple-burgundy leaves and a show stopper. Mature clumps can grow to reach 6′ across. Best foliage color in full-sun.
Crinum scabrum, considered by some as the “most beautiful crinum” more here.
Crinum mauritianum, Thought to be extinct, rediscovered in 1973, near Midlands Dam (Barrage de Midlands) in Mauritius. It’s become an ornamental in Mauritius, and used frequently in landscaping.
Crinum latifolium, with white flowers from Asia and reportly, naturalized in the West Indies. The crinum latifolium (crinum prostate) extract is known to cure rheumatism, fistula, whitlow and stops the growth of prostate tumors.
Crinum “Ellen Bosanquet” a hybrid by Louis Bosanquet with beautiful wine-red flowers named after his wife.
In the southern landscape, the crinum make a wonderful addition and statement with its size, foliage, flowers and over beauty.