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Crinums Add Tropical Splendor

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'Ellen Bosanquet' Photo by Robert E. Lyons

‘Ellen Bosanquet’
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Crinums are great summer-flowering bulbs that have graced Southern landscapes for years. They lend a bit of nostalgia and add a delightful tropical touch to gardens. Their coarse sword-like foliage is lustrous and statuesque, providing a pleasing contrast to finer textured ornamentals.

The flowers of the more common crinums resemble those of the Easter lily. Many choices are available, however, and the flowers range from bell shaped to spiderlike in appearance. Colors range from deep reds, pinks and whites to bicolors. The white form ‘Album’ and the wine-red ‘Rubra’ are choice garden plants.

This member of the amaryllis family is one of the more cold-hardy bulbs, and it can be safely planted in the eastern regions of our mountains. Those living in the far western regions of North Carolina can grow crinums in containers that can be brought inside for the winter.

Plant crinums in April and continuing through late October. They thrive in sunny locations, provided the soil is moist, or in filtered shade. When looking for plants that grow well in woodland shade gardens, consider C. moorei.

C. procerum 'Splendens'Photo by Robert E. Lyons

C. procerum ‘Splendens’
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Newly planted crinums need to settle in for a season or two before they begin blooming freely. They do not like to be disturbed. After the first flowering season, apply a high-phosphorus fertilizer in mid-May each year. Provide plenty of water during the bloom period if there is a drought. After 4 to 5 years, remove the offsets and replant to enlarge your collection or to share with a gardening friend.

Many of the crinum cultivars are age-old hybrids. Most are crosses of C. bulbispermumand C. moorei, such as C. x powellii and C. xscabrum. Cultivars include white-flowering ‘Schmidtii’ and ‘White Queen’, pink ‘Cecil Houdyshel’ and ‘Roseum’, red ‘Carnival’ and bicolor ‘Milk and Wine’.

Hardy crinums and their related hybrids are prominent members of the perennial border at the JC Raulston Arboretum. Tender species like the lovely purple leaf form, C. procerum ‘Splendens’, have been planted in containers for their seasonal beauty.
Darrell Blackwelder