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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

It's Crinum Time Again
Greg Grant

Traipse through any old Texas cemetery or yard and you are almost assured of running across one of the most enduring and cherished of southern bulbs, the crinum lily. Though they somewhat resemble them, crinums aren't actually lilies or even related to them. Like oxblood "lilies", Aztec "lilies", St. Joseph's "lilies", rain "lilies", and spider "lilies", they are in the amaryllis family instead. The amaryllis family is well known for a bunch of tough hombres in Texas.

The genus Crinum includes about 130 species occurring in warm tropical regions of the world, especially Africa and Asia. This genetic heritage makes widespread cultivation only possible in zones 7-10, as they aren't cold hardy in northern climates. This also makes them supremely adapted to hot, muggy southern conditions. Crinums (pronounced "CRY-nums") are to the South what peonies are to the north, big bold perennials with wonderful flowers for cutting. The often fragrant, lily-like flowers occur in clusters on stalks around three feet tall and can be white, pink, or striped (milk and wine lilies).

Crinums have big bold foliage that often cascades to the ground in lush mounds. Haughty gardeners often unduly complain about the mounds of rotund leaves. If you ask me, it's like complaining about how big your momma is. With all that crinums and mommas have done, we should learn to shut our mouths! Crinums are what they are and they don't really care whether you like their foliage or not. They're a lot like Texas*big and brash, take it or leave it. If their foliage gets marred by insects, it is acceptable to occasionally cut it all off so that it may be replaced with new healthy foliage. It's also a good time to toss a bit of fertilizer around them. This "crew cutting" is a rare acceptance for bulbs so don't over practice it if the foliage is generally healthy.

Although crinums are extremely drought tolerant and forgiving, they perform best with full sun and regular moisture. They are unique in that most of them hail from parts of the globe that are lakes part of they year and deserts others. This gives them the unique ability to handle just about anything Texas weather can dish out. I believe it was my mentor, William C. Welch, who stated "No crinum has ever died", and he may just be right. If you happen to kill one, I certainly wouldn't advertise it.

Crinums produce huge water and food storing bulbs below the ground, which makes digging old clumps a major chore. The good news is that they never need dividing unless you want to propagate more. If so, trench around the entire clump, severing all the roots, with a sturdy sharp shooter before trying to pry it from the ground. Once out of the soil, use a hose and nozzle to remove the water from the roots before dividing the individual bulbs. Some crinums multiply quickly and others hardly at all. You can tell how many bulbs there will be by the number of necks protruding from the ground. As crinums have year round roots it is best to replant them immediately and not let them dry out. It generally takes them about a year to settle back in.

To be quite honest, I've never met a crinum I didn't like. They range in size from small to large, with foliage from upright to cascading. Flowers can be trumpet or spider-like and can smell like vanilla or perfume. Dr. Welch likes the more subdued colors while I've always lusted after the gaudily striped milk and wine types. As you may know, I like my flowers a l ittle on the trashy side. Here are a just a few of the many wonderful crinums to consider for your Texas garden.

Crinum bulbispermum: This native of South Africa is often found naturalized in Central Texas ditches. It has gray green foliage in fountain-like mounds and trumpet type flowers, ranging from white to pink and striped. It isn't the prettiest crinum, but it is the earliest blooming, toughest, and most cold hardy. It is the parent of most of the good garden hybrids.

Crinum x digweedii 'Royal White': This old fashioned favorite has somewhat spidery white blooms with pale pink stripes. It is one of the last to bloom, generally late summer and fall. It also goes by the name of "Nassau lily". My Granny Ruth had this one in her yard.

Crinum x herbertii (milk and wine lilies): Many old fashioned hybrids are included here with fragrant, white, trumpet type flowers striped with some relation of red, pink, or purple. My Grandmother Emanis had these next to the front porch, near the swing. The dark, wide striped, 'Carol Abbott' is one of many fine selections.

Crinum x powellii 'Album': This cold hardy selection with pure white flowers is often available (along with her pink sister) through summer Dutch bulb catalogs. It provides beautiful cutflowers for church services, funerals, or weddings.

Crinum x 'Bradley': This cultivar from Australia has beautiful tall flower spikes topped with dark pink flowers above lush green foliage.

Crinum x Ellen Bosanquet: Although the flowers are actually dark pink, this is often referred to as a "red" flowered crinum. It's quite common all over the South and may actually prefer a touch of shade during the heat of summer. My Grandmother Emanis liked this one best.

Crinum x 'Mrs. James Hendry': This Florida introduction by the late, great, southern horticulturist, Henry Nehrling, produces wonderfully fragrant white flowers flushed with pastel pink in mid summer. Dr. Welch is in love with this gal! Don' t tell Diane.

For more information on crinums see:

Garden Bulbs for the South by Scott Odgen (1994, Taylor Publishing)
Bulbs for Warm Climates by Thad Howard (2001, University of Texas Press)

Perennial Garden Color by William C. Welch (1989, Taylor Publishing)

The Southern Heirloom Garden by William C. Welch and Greg Grant (1995, Taylor Publishing)

Mail Order:
Plant Delights Nursery
9241 Sauls Road
Raleigh, NC 27603
Phone: (919) 772-4794

Old House Gardens
536 Third St.
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103-4957
Phone: 734-995-1486

Marcelle's Crinums

Tejas Bulbs
147-A Seewald Road
Boerne, Texas 78006
Phone: 830-537-4808

Greg Grant is co-author of Home Landscaping-Texas and The Southern Heirloom Garden. He is also the creator of Arcadia Archives at:

Summer Bulbs

Summer Bulbs: Grow and bloom during the summer and go dormant during the winter due to cold temperatures. Most are tropical in origin. They respond well to irrigation and fertilizer.

Some summer bulbs for Texas:

Cannas (Canna x generalis)
Butterfly Ginger (Hedychium coronarium)
Crinum Lily (Crinum sp. and hybrids)
Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiaflora)
Spider Lily (Hymenocallis)
Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis)
Tiger Lily (Lilium x lancifolium)
Philippine/Formosa Lily (Lilium formosanum)
Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva and hybrids)
Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)

Bulbs 101 by (Greg Grant)

Bulb: A herbaceous plant with a fleshy underground storage organ made up of modified leaves. Includes both annual and perennial types. Examples: daffodils, amaryllis, and lilies. Often loosely includes other types of storage organs including tubers (caladiums), corms (gladiolus), rhizomes (iris), tuberous roots (daylilies), etc*

Annual bulb: A bulbous plant that is only useful for one season (doesn't reliably return and bloom each year). Examples: tulips, Dutch hyacinths, and caladiums.

Short lived bulb: A bulbous plant that only performs well for a few years and gradually declines. Examples: large flowered daffodils, most true lilies, and most gladiolus.

Spring bulb: Bulbs that bloom in late winter or early spring. Mos t of these grow foliage during the winter and spring and go dormant in the summer. Examples: jonquils, snowflakes, and narcissus.

Summer bulb: Bulbs that grow and bloom during the late spring and summer. Most are tropical in origin, go dormant during the winter, and are somewhat tender and grown primarily outdoors only in the South. Examples: crinums, hymenocallis, and cannas.

Fall bulbs: Bulbs that bloom in late summer and fall after a summer drought induced dormancy. They normally bloom without foliage and grow foliage during the fall and winter. Examples: spider lily (Lycoris), oxblood lily, and rain lilies.

Naturalize: When bulbs multiply and spread on their own and seemingly grow "wild".

Perennialize: When bulbs return each year as perennials but may or may not naturalize.

Characteristics of bulbs: Easy, low maintenance, drought tolerant, light feeders, more expensive, long lived, mostly propagated by division.

Soil requirements: Not particular. Good drainage is best for most. Annual types require "annual soil mix."

Some long lived bulbs for East Texas

Byzantine gladiolus
campernelle jonquil
Grand Primo narcissus
oxblood lily
rain lily
Roman hyacinth
spider lily
Spring star flower
St. Joseph's lily (amaryllis)
white cemetery (bearded/German) iris