Crinum americanum
Common Name: Florida swamp lily 
Type: Bulb
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Native Range: Southern United States
Zone: 8 to 11
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to September
Bloom Description: White (sometimes blushed pink)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Water Plant
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Wet Soil

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-11. Bulbs are easily grown in moist to wet, organically rich soils in full sun to light shade. Will also grow in standing water to 6” deep. Although this is a wetland plant in its native habitat, it performs well in moderately moist soils in garden settings. Winter temperatures determine best planting strategy: (A) Where winter hardy, plant bulbs in a moist soil in spring for year round outdoor growth. Plants will often spread over time to form large colonies. (B) Where marginally winter hardy, plant bulbs in a protected location (e.g., southern exposure) in moist soils in spring for year round outdoor growth and mulch with evergreen boughs, hay or leaves over winter. (C) Where not winter hardy, plants are usually grown in containers which are planted outdoors in spring after last spring frost date and then dug up and brought indoors prior to the first fall frost date for overwintering in a cool sun room. Plant bulbs in pots/containers that are at least two inches larger in diameter than the bulbs. Bulbs like to be pot-bound. Set bulb in the pot with the neck exposed. Keep soils moist to wet and fertilize regularly during the growing season. Bring containers inside in fall before first frost for overwintering in a frost-free location. Return containers to the garden after last spring frost date.

Although plants can technically be grown directly in the ground (as opposed to in pots) in St. Louis by planting the bulbs in late spring and lifting the bulbs in fall in somewhat the same manner as for dahlias, this is generally not considered good practice because crinum roots do not like to be disturbed and once disturbed plants may not bloom for another 2-3 years. It should be noted that some gardeners have been able to successfully grow crinum hybrids year round in the ground as far north as Zone 6 with a good winter mulch and protected location, however the risk of loss is ever present.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Crinum americanum, commonly called Florida crinum lily, southern swamp lily or spider lily, is a tender perennial bulb in the Amaryllis family. It is native to wetlands, swamps, marshes, wet hammocks, and streambanks from South Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf coast to Texas.

Fragrant, white (sometimes blushed pink), lily-like flowers (each to 4” wide and long) in 2-6 flowered umbels bloom summer to fall atop leafless scapes rising to 2-3’ tall from a clump of narrow, evergreen, strap-shaped leaves (to 2” wide and to 1-2’ long). Each flower has spreading petals to 1/2” wide and stamens with pink to red stalks. Crinum bulbs are large (to 3-4” diameter) with tapered necks.

Genus name comes from the Greek word krinon meaning lily.

Specific epithet is in reference to the native American habitat of this lily.

Problems

Grasshoppers may chew on the foliage. Mealybugs, nematodes, slugs and snails are occasional visitors. Watch for leaf scorch.

Garden Uses

Moist to wet areas of the landscape. Water gardens. Pond peripheries. Borders. Foundation areas. Circular drive centers.