Crinum lilies are truly classic southern pass-along, summer-flowering sun perennials. Crinums have thrived for hundreds of years at abandoned home sites where daffodils have long ago turned up their toes. The giant clumps of bold, tropical, lily-like foliage make an imposing architectural statement in the garden. In summer, crinum lily clumps are adorned with an array of pink-to-white trumpet-like flowers ...usually fragrant. Crinums are extremely adaptable...either in dry or in boggy soils. Think of crinum lilies as a horticultural IRA for your grandkids to remember you by.
More Information About Crinum
Crinums are tough, low maintenance plants that are perfect for rain gardens, woodland gardens, or as house plants. Crinums go by several common names including crinum lily, cape lily, spider lily, and swamp lily. Plant Delights is currently growing over 200 different crinum lily selections and each year we evaluate the best performers and offer them to the public.
How to Grow and Care for Crinum Lilies
Where to Plant
Crinum will bloom best when they are provided with plenty of water and sun. The giant clumps of foliage make an imposing architectural statement in the garden. Some crinum lily mature at 3’ wide, while others spread to 7’ wide, so check planting widths for each variety. No single planting spacing works for all crinum, so just because it doesn’t fill the space immediately, doesn’t mean it won’t do so soon.
Crinum lily bulbs should be planted so that the neck of the bulb is just above the soil. Drainage isn’t important for most crinum lilies, in fact, most like moist to soggy soils. Crinums are typically winter hardy to zones 6 or 7 so planting in a container may make it easier to overwinter indoors or in a cold frame just above freezing if you are in a colder climate. Most crinums are large growers, so be sure your container is at least 3 x the width of the bulb. If your bulb is 2” wide, you’ll need at least a 6” wide pot.
When to Plant
Crinum can be planted anytime in the spring through the summer. For us here in central North Carolina the best time is between April and August. Bulbs planted after August in Zone 7b/8a will most likely not establish fast enough to survive a cold first winter. Crinum bulbs may need to settle for a season or two before you start seeing a lot of blooms but trust us, your patience will be rewarded!
Water and Soil Requirements
Although relatively drought tolerant, crinum will flower to a greater degree when provided with plenty of water during the bloom period, typically mid-summer. During the fall or early winter, they may go dormant so refrain from watering if there is no new growth. Organically rich, well-drained soil will improve your crinum lilies chances at making through the winter.
Crinum are very heavy feeders, so plenty of organic fertilizer or compost applied any time. Unlike chemical fertilizers, the timing of the application of organic fertilizers is irrelevant since you are feeding the soil microbes and not the plant itself.
Crinum are beloved for their lily-like, fragrant flowers that can range from bell or trumpet shaped to a more arachnoid shape that emerge in clusters atop leafless stalks that can easily reach up to 2’ – 5’ tall (0.6 m. - 1.5 m.), depending on the variety. Flower colors are mostly pink, white, and red.
Crinum lilies love sunshine so be sure to plant in full sun or part sun, unless it’s one of the varieties that prefer lightly filtered shade. In desert climates, they can benefit from some partial afternoon shade to avoid leaf scorch.
Crinum bulbs are among the more cold-hardy members of the amaryllis family with some that can survive as far north as zones 6a or 6b with a heavy layer of winter mulch. Crinum bulbs can also be stored indoors during winter in lightly moist peat or sand.
Crinum Lily Landscape Usage
Crinum lilies make fantastic accent plants in any garden and are often used in small groupings or as border plants. They also have some resistance to salt so are often a favorite for gardeners in coastal areas.
Crinum lilies have a long tradition in the southern U.S. as a pass-along flower owing much to their resilience when dividing the offsets. You can dig and divide the bulbs when starting, or in full growth. The clumps and individual bulbs can get rather large, so digging and dividing the outermost bulbs of the clump is recommended, unless you have access to a backhoe.
Pests and Diseases
Deer are the only serious problem of crinum lilies when they are well grown. If they are poorly grown, you may well experience garden pests including mealy bugs, slugs, and snails.
Crinum lilies contain alkaloids which can be toxic if ingested.
Crinum Lily Companion Plants
Additional Crinum Lily Resources
If you would like to read more about crinum lilies, or see some of the spectacular crinum that we have grown at Plant Delights Nursery and at Juniper Level Botanic Garden, visit our crinum photo gallery.
In this video, Tony shows how crinum our bred here at Plant Delights/JLBG and how you can breed your own crinum lilies at home. You can read the complete transcript here.