I had heard of crinum lilies (Crinum species) but had never planted one or thought much about them, honestly. Did you know they were an old Southern plant? I have been working in the horticulture field for over 30 years, AND I grew up in the South. How did I miss this? Lucky for me, I heard about crinums from my friend, Jenks Farmer, who has been on a mission to educate the world about this old southern staple.
I planted my first crinum lilies last summer. Honestly, I was a little afraid of planting them in late June because I was worried it was too late. BUT, from what I learned, summer is a perfect time…in fact, just about anytime works great. They were easy to plant and grew without too much attention on my part, and their beauty and hardiness were a huge plus. Since I am a self-proclaimed “lazy gardener,” I quickly became addicted to them.
Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to visit Jenks’ flower farm with a few of my plant friends (i.e., also my coworkers). Our travels took us south to the end of a dirt road in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, but once I saw the field of flowers, I knew we had arrived. We spent time catching up with each other before diving into all things crinum. As Jenks told us about each variety, my mind was already spinning with thoughts about where I could put one of each in my landscape.
To date, Jenks has introduced four crinum varieties.
Regina’s Disco Lounge is named after a 1970s nightclub where Jenks originally found it growing in 1992. After confirming with crinum experts that this selection was, in fact, larger and showier than others in the Crinum x gowenii group, he introduced it into the market. The name has been tentatively accepted by the Royal Horticulture Society. Regina’s Disco Lounge has large white flowers with a pink stripe on stalks reaching up to 4.5’
Aurora Glorialis is from a Crinum bulbispermum seed selection that popped up in Jenks’ field in 2008. It has steel gray leaves and flowers that open a green (light cream) color, changing to light pink on the second day and then a darker pink on the third day. Because of the changing flower colors on one plant, he named it Aurora (after Aurora Borealis), and the second part of the name is after his mother, Gloria.
Walterboro White Wedding Strain is a selection from a churchyard in Walterboro, SC. It is a seedling strain, so each plant produces a slightly different flower. They all have pure white petals, but the centers can vary from green, white, or light pink.
Mo’Pon’ is a variety of Crinum x powelli. It was discovered in 1993 on a construction site in Charleston, South Carolina. It grows knee-high and produces lots of light pink flowers with thin petals. Mo’Pon’ is named after the pond where Jenks first planted a large display of this variety.
Jenks tells me that he is working on breeding new varieties, which take up to 10 years to introduce. Like a kid waiting on Christmas, I can’t wait to see what is next.
One lesson that I have learned about the field of horticulture is that there is always more to know. So, keep your mind open, and the possibilities will be endless.
General Crinum Planting Information
When: Early spring through late summer is best, but Jenks tells me that he divides and plants bulbs all year in zone 8.
Where: Plant in an area with full sun and good soil drainage (shade tolerance and soil drainage tolerance can vary depending on variety).
How: Plant a couple of inches deeper and wider than the bulb (bulb sizes range from 1 pound to over 4 pounds). Plant bulbs up to their neck or slender part of the bulb. Space the bulbs allowing enough room for the bulb to spread and mature, about 2 to 3 feet apart (smaller varieties can be spaced 1 to 2 feet apart). NOTE: Most varieties do not like to be disturbed after planting, so be sure to plant them where you want them to be for the next ten-plus years.
For more information on summer flowering bulbs, see HGIC 1156, Summer- And Fall-Flowering Bulbs.