Crinums Defy Texas Flooding

Milk and Wine Crinum, May 27, 2015

Milk and Wine Crinum, May 27, 2015

Flooding in Texas continues.In the month of May, 2015, many areas have already received most of the yearly volumes of rainfall and some areas have exceeded those volumes. In our area, about 75% of the yearly rainfall is already accounted for! At best, the ground is so water logged that any amount of rain—even a sprinkle—results in puddles that remain for days.IMy established crinums have responded to the massive volumes of rain with an abundance of bloom production!

Milk and Wine Crinum, May 22, 2015

Milk and Wine Crinum, May 22, 2015

This crinum–the common “milk and wine” variety–has been in my garden for about 8 years now. So far, it has produced more flowers than in the last four years!

These durable plants can be found in many Texas gardens due to their tolerance of heat, humidity, soil, moisture or dryness, and amount of sun (best in lose soil with average moisture plus full sun or afternoon shade). My gardens have 4 different varieties; Milk and Wine, Mrs. James Hendry, Bradley, and Ellen Bosnequet (Pictures will be posted as these begin to bloom—they have been in my gardens for 1 year only).

Last year, a late freeze (mid-May) damaged the emerging blooms and very few were produced after that. The previous years were at the end of that drought that lasted about 6 years. This year, the crinums are responding well to the large volumes of water!

Growing Crinums.

These hardy plants produce bulbs that tend to be football-sized and larger, so they will quickly consume a small area. Additionally, they reproduce rather quickly (with the exception of a few varieties–Bradley, for example, reproduces rather slowly). The foliage requires a space about 3 to 4 feet in diameter. Furthermore, the foliage will freeze (even in our mild Texas winters) and appears like a mass of brown dead tissue, that takes up about 1/3 the space of the green plant. This dead plant material keeps the bulb insulated during winter, so I leave it to naturalize.

Crinums require some Spring moisture to initiate growth and for eventual blooming, but can tolerate periods of little to no moisture after emergence from dormancy. The crinums generally produce blooms after receiving water; so shortly after a rain event if not given additional water.

Each bulb produces up to 8 stalks that bear 10 to 20 flowers (depending on the variety). To encourage Spring growth and development, use a balanced fertilizer as the plant emerges from dormancy (lightly sprinkle at the base of the plant, around the bulbs).

While these plants can be purchased from a variety of heirloom gardening and commercial greenhouses, they can also be shared as “pass alongs” — just be wary of the amount of work it will take to dig up a large crinum bulb (not a small task, and even more difficult in clay-type soils!). If the bulbs are dug up and transplanted, blooms may not appear for a year—that really depends on the variety. For example, I have dug Ellen Bosenquet and it bloomed within a month; yet, the Milk and Wine variety took a year to recover before it bloomed.

Crimums are incredibly hardy, but do require some care and a lot of space, and will reward the gardener with years of the beautiful amaryllid type flowers (they make great cut flowers, often lasting 10 days or more). Enjoy!

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