The Q&A Archives: Swamp Lily Seeds

Question: I have a packet of seeds that has no picture. The packet states: "Swamp Lily's-Water loving plants". Plant in full sun, where plenty of water is. Grows about 4' to 5', has about 6 to 8 flowers atop each stem. Sow 8" to 10" apart. Plant 1/2" deep, cover with lightly packed dirt. Water well, and keep moist. Will make a bush in couple of years."

Do you know what these are? I don't. Help!!

Answer: You have seeds of Crinum americanum. This group of bulbous perennials are natives of Sumatra, Zanzibar and South Africa. Once your seedlings mature they will form bulbs beneath the soil surface. The bulbs of these plants are quite large; many grow several inches in diameter with long bottlenecks. They produce long, strap-shaped leaves and red, pink or white flowers. C. americanum, commonly known as the Swamp Lily or Southern Swamp Crinum, is a tender plant found from Florida to Texas. This plant produces leaves 18 to 24 inches in length and up to 2 feet wide. Its fragrant, delicate, white flowers have long, thin petals; the flowers are produced in clusters atop long, strong stems. The Swamp Lily is suited for growing in a water garden. It can be grown in 1 to 6 inches of water preferably, though it will grow in water up to a foot deep. Several kinds of Crinums are commonly known in the South as Milk and Wine Lilies.

Crinums can be grown outside in mild climates. Crinums require a minimum temperature of 55 degrees. They flourish in beds of rich soil and shouldn't be disturbed too much after replanting because it often takes two or three years before they'll bloom again. They love open, sunny areas or light shade. When they are grown in a greenhouse, they are planted in large pots or wooden tubs filled with two parts turfy loam and one part leaf mold, with a generous addition of sand. They can also be planted in a prepared bed of soil in the greenhouse. Make sure the containers have adequate drainage. Place the bulbs so that half is sticking above the surface. Repotting should only be done when they begin to deteriorate, since they produce flowers in abundance when they're crowded. Give them plenty of water during the summer and apply liquid fertilizer once a week from June to August. When they've finished blooming, they are exposed to full sunlight and the water supply of the deciduous kinds is gradually diminished until the foliage withers. They are then stored under the benches during the winter. The evergreen kinds are watered throughout the year, but much less during the winter. When they begin active growth in the spring, they are top-dressed with fresh compost. C. americanum, as mentioned earlier, can be grown in the pond. It can be potted in a 5-gallon container and grown in 1 to 6 inches of water, in sun or partial shade. In cold climates, it should be moved to a greenhouse or other suitable shelter with adequate light and water before the first frost. When the temperatures have returned to a 70-degree temperature or higher, in late spring or early summer, it may be returned outdoors. Hope this helps clear the confusion!

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