Tuesday, July 27, 2010

River Lily, Spider Lily, Swamp Lily, Poison Bulb


River Lily, Spider Lily, Swamp Lily, Poison Bulb are common names for species in the genus, Crinum (pronounced KRY-num).  There are about 180 of them found around the globe in tropical and subtropical habitats.  Yes, especially near swamps and rivers.

Crinums grow from bulbs which, like so many ornamental plants, are poisonous if ingested.  Leaves, usually strap-like, may be evergreen or deciduous, depending upon the species.  Clusters of handsome flowers, often fragrant, are produced on long, leafless stems throughout summer.  Leaves and flowers may also be toxic, so keep your lips off.  Consequently, crinums are deer resistant.

Crinum is a member of the Amaryllidaceae, which includes Amaryllis, Clivia, Hippeastrum, Leucojum and Lycoris.  The family resemblance is obvious.  In fact, you might say that Amaryllis and Crinum are "kissing cousins", having been bred to produce an intergeneric hybrid, x Amarcrinum.

Crinums may be cold hardy from USDA climate zone 7 through 11, depending upon the species.  Those who live in cooler regions can grow the smaller species successfully in containers with winter protection.

If planting in the garden, select a site in full sun to partial shade.  Obviously, crinums perform best in moist soils similar to their native habitats.  Generally they prefer a great deal of water.  Some species such as Crinum thaianum are aquatic and often used in aquariums.  Some require the soil to dry between watering to avoid rot.  But I know from personal experience that many are quite drought-tolerant.

Soil pH may be acidic to neutral.  Exact requirements differ by species.  The best way to determine if the pH is within that range and contains the proper nutrients is to have the soil tested. Your local Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service can help you.  You can collect the soil sample yourself.  For a nominal fee, they will send your soil sample to a laboratory for analysis.  Be sure to call the Extension office for instructions.

Cultivate the soil to the depth of 12".  Add plenty of well-rotted compost.  Remove weeds.  Soil test results may recommend other soil amendments.  Bone meal is especially beneficial for bulbs.  If you use synthetic fertilizer, allow at least a week before planting so it can be incorporated into the soil by rain or irrigation and not burn the bulbs.

Planting depth and spacing vary by species and bulb size.

Crinums are stately additions to the garden, lending a bold tropical appearance to the landscape.  Sweet scented species are perfect for fragrance gardens.

Growing crinums in containers is not much different than in the garden.  Use the finest potting soil; cheap soil will give poor results.  The best potting soils will be light-weight, peat-based with added materials to enhance plant growth.  Select containers that will accommodate the bulbs and any other suitable companion plants.  All companion plants should have similar soil and moisture requirements.  Because container gardens can dry quickly, take steps to keep the pots properly watered.  Adding moisture retentive gel to the soil can be beneficial.  Larger containers are not as susceptible to drying.  Tipping over can also be a problem with small containers.

When bloom time is over, let the foliage remain to build reserves in the bulbs for the next growing season.  You may remove the foliage from deciduous species when it has turned yellow.  Continue to irrigate as needed.  Deciduous species will need considerably less water, if any, when foliage has fallen.

The following are a few of the most popular crinums:

Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet' - Fuschia, trumpet-shaped flowers on 20" to 30" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 6 - 10.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Drought tolerant.

Crinum 'Ollene' - Fragrant, white, trumpet-shaped flowers on 18" to 24" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 6 - 10.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Consistently moist soil.

Crinum 'Walter Flory' - Fragrant, pink, trumpet-shaped flowers on 24" to 36" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 7b - 11.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Consistently moist soil.

Crinum 'Mrs. James Hendry' - Fragrant, pale pink, trumpet-shaped flowers on 36" to 48" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 7b - 11.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Consistently moist soil.

Crinum 'Stars and Stripes' - Red and white striped, star-shaped flowers on 18" to 24" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 7b - 10.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Consistently moist soil.

Crinum 'Hannibal's Dwarf' - Pink, star-shaped blooms on 12" to 18" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 7b - 10.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Consistently moist soil.

Crinum amabile - Pink, spider-shaped flowers on 36" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 8 - 11.  pH 6.6 - 7.5.  Very high moisture needs.  Suitable for bog and water gardens.

Crinum americanum - White, spider-shaped flowers on 24" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 7 - 10.  pH 5.6 - 7.5.  Very high moisture needs.  Suitable for bog and water gardens.

Crinum asiaticum - Fragrant, white, spider-shaped flowers on 48" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 9 - 11.  pH 6.1 - 7.8.  Consistently moist soil.

Crinum pedunculatum - Fragrant, white, spider-shaped flowers on 60" to 96" plants.  It's a whopper!  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 7b - 11.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Consistently moist soil.

Crinum x powellii - White or pink trumpet-shaped flowers on 24" plants.  Evergreen foliage.  Climate zones 8 - 11.  pH 6.1 - 7.5.  Average water needs.  Avoid over-watering.

X Amarcrinum memoria-corsii - Pink trumpet-shaped flowers on 24" to 36" plants.  Deciduous foliage.  Climate zones 7b - 10.  Average water needs.  Avoid over-watering.

This should provide you with a good over-view of Crinum.  You'll love the dramatic appearance they lend to your garden or sunroom.

Return to Crinum at goGardenNow.com.

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