Among the South's most classic and cherished passalong plants, crinums combine bold, fragrant flowers, imposing foliage, and a bulldog constitution. Seldom seen in newer suburbs, they are now found largely in country gardens, at old home sites, and in cemeteries, where they thrive with little care. Indeed, they tolerate adversity so well that some say no crinum has ever died.
Native to many warm and tropical parts of the world; evergreen in the Tropical South, deciduous elsewhere. Each bulb tapers to an elongated, stemlike neck, from which radiate handsome, long, broad, straplike leaves. Rising from the foliage mass are thick stems to 4 ft. or taller, each bearing a cluster of long-stalked, lilylike flowers in white, pink, rose red, or reddish purple. Most are 46 in. long; many are highly fragrant. Depending on the type, crinums may flower from spring through late summer; in the Tropical South, some bloom year-round. Can be brought indoors in winter. Not browsed by deer.
X Amarcrinum memoria-corsii 'Howardii'. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Hybrid between Amaryllis belladonna and C. moorei. More dependable in the south than belladonna lily. Resembles Crinum in growth habit and foliage, but its white-throated, soft pink, very fragrant flowers look more like those of Amaryllis belladonna, with narrower funnel shape than blooms of most crinums. Successive stalks emerge and bloom until frost. The plant is evergreen in mild winters.
C. americanum. SOUTHERN SWAMP CRINUM. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Native to water edges and swamps in the southeastern U.S. and on the Gulf Coast. Fragrant white flowers on 2-ft. stems appear from spring to late fall. Takes deep shade. Spreads by stolons and likes wet soil.
C. asiaticum. GRAND CRINUM, ST. JOHN'S LILY. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. From Southeast Asia. Large (6- to 8-in.-wide), fragrant, spidery-looking white flowers in clusters of up to 50. Foliage does not droop, but is held strait like a big yucca. C. a. procerum 'Splendens' has bronze to purple leaves and flowers pink on the backs of the petals. Grows 46 ft. tall.
C. bulbispermum. HARDY CRINUM. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Native to South Africa. Deep pink, fragrant flowers. Long, narrow, twisting gray-green leaves tend to lie on the ground. 'Album' has white flowers; seed-grown Jumbo strain has larger flowers in white, pink, or striped.
C. erubescens. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. From South America. To 3 ft. high. Broad, shiny green leaves form a clump that spreads by rhizomes. Makes a large colony and is drought and shade tolerant. Reddish stems bear fragrant, spidery-looking white flowers from midsummer until frost. Good ground cover.
C. hybrids. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11, except as noted. Those listed below are some of the many fine choices available.
'Bolivia'. To 2 ft. high and up to 3 ft. wide. Fragrant white flowers with a red stripe down the center of the petals.
'Bradley'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. To 23 ft. high. Hybrid of Australian origin. Narrow, arching, glossy green leaves. Very fragrant, waxy, open-faced flowers of deep rosy pink with white centers bloom in summer.
'Carnival'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Cold-hardy selection with stems to 2 ft. tall. Flowers in shades of pink and red are marked with white streaks.
'Ellen Bosanquet'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Broad, bright green leaves. Fragrant flowers are deep rose, nearly red. An all-time favorite.
'Hannibal's Dwarf'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. To 1 ft. high, with strap-shaped, shiny green leaves. Fragrant, deep pink flowers bloom in midsummer, rebloom in early fall. Multiplies quickly to form attractive clumps and could be a ground cover. Shy to flower.
'Infusion'. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. An excellent cross of 'Ellen Bosanquet' and 'J.C. Harvey' from Florida. Vigorous plant topped with 3-ft.-high clusters of cherry-red flowers.
'J.C. Harvey'. To 2 ft. tall. Shiny, ribbed, green leaves. Blooms in summer, bearing reddish pink buds that open to clear pink, headily fragrant flowers with wide-spreading petals. Each flower stalk bears about six blossoms. Spreads rapidly. Great ground cover. Shade tolerant but rarely blooms in shade.
'Milk and Wine'. Creamy white, fragrant flowers with pink stripes; continuous bloom. Milk and wine is also a common name for several similar-looking selections and for C. x herbertii or C. x gowennii. 'Carroll Abbott' has more intense stripes; 'Regina's Disco Lounge' is simply larger.
'Mrs. James Hendry'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. To 2 ft. high, with rigidly upright, shiny green leaves. Very fragrant white blossoms blushed with pinkish lavender appear in late spring and bloom through mid-summer into fall.
'Peach Blow'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Long leaves; pale lavender, spicily fragrant flowers with recurving petals. The classic crinum of the Old South.
'Royal White'. Narrow, semierect leaves. Very large, fragrant white flowers with rose-pink stripes.
'Sangria'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Pink flowers borne on dark purple foliage. Grows 4 ft. tall.
'Stars and Stripes'. Compact, with narrow, pleated leaves. Fragrant white flowers with central red stripe reach 2 ft. high. Shy to flower.
'Summer Nocturne'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Purple flower spikes topped with 2-ft.-tall, intensely fragrant, pale pink flowers, deepening toward the tips of the petals. Flowers late, in October and November.
'Super Ellen'. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Huge, glossy green leaves are up to 7 ft. long. Cherry-red flowers reach up to 6 ft. high. Takes a few years to bloom after planting.
'Walter Flory'. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. To 4 ft. tall. Lush green foliage. Rich pink, fragrant flowers with a lengthwise burgundy stripe down center of each petal.
'White Emperor'. Large, outfacing, fragrant, white blooms reach up to 3 ft. high.
C. moorei. LONGNECK CRINUM. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. From South Africa. Large (6- to 8-in.-wide) bulbs with stemlike neck to 1 ft. long or more. Long, thin, wavy-edged bright green leaves. Soft pink, fragrant, bell-shaped blossoms. Prefers light shade in Texas.
C. x powellii. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Resembles its parent C. moorei but has fragrant dark rose flowers. 'Album' is a good pure white form, vigorous enough to serve as a tall ground cover in shade. 'Cecil Houdyshel' (Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11) has long, tapering leaves and deep rose-red blossoms. 'Eden' has large, clear white flowers. Very cold hardy.
C. scabrum. MILK-AND-WINE LILY, CREOLE LILY. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. From tropical Africa. Usually low-growing but may reach 6 ft. tall under ideal conditions. Sweetly fragrant, 3-in., spidery-looking flowers in pure white with a red stripe lengthwise down middle of each petal. Blooms in midsummer, with some rebloom in early fall.