The Crinum lily… it’s exotic and exciting “bell shaped” flowers, and lovely scent is related to the Amaryllis plant.
From the Greek the name Crinum simply means “Lily.” By all look and feel the Crinum has all the characteristics of a lily.
The plant has all the typical “periods” we find in the lily family:
- Definite rest period
- Definite growth period
- Definite flowering period
Big Long Necked Bulbs
Crinum asiaticum 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.
Crinum bulbs are much larger than bulbs of its relative the Amaryllis. 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 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.
Multiple Flowers Together
The long, slim flower stalks push themselves high above the elegant leaves to display their wares.
Stalks of flowers bloom 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 crinums can develop 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.
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
Growing crinum plants outdoors in the landscape is fairly easy in USDA zones 7-10.
Crinums have been called an “anti-social”, since they do best when they do not compete with other plants. They can grow to be very old.
They perform best in full sun (but not burning sun) so give they 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.
Crinums 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.
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 balanced 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.
In the summer, sideshoots should develop on the “mother plant.” If the growing container is large enough – allow the 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.
Growing Bulbs From Seed
The patient flower lover who likes to grow things can gain a deal of interesting experience in 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.
Pest and Problems
Rarely attacked by insects, but if an attack is discovered, begin to fight back immediately.
Outdoors grasshoppers can be an issue during different time of the year. Best results and to pick them off or use a spray like Sevin.
Crinum bulbispermum 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 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 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 Species
Other popular crinum species worth trying in any collection are:
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, a sturdy and half-hardy, stoloniferous kind, with white, star-like flowers;
In the southern landscape, the crinum make a wonderful addition and statement with its size, foliage, flowers and over beauty.