Crinum x powellii: Powell’s Swamp Lily

The hybrid is becoming increasingly popular. Every year these magnificent bulbs are more and more common in parks, where they are planted in large masses that always attract attention in late summer when their lovely blooms appear.

Crinum x powellii is derived from C. bulbisper-mum and C. moorei. The first, a species native to South Africa, has a large, long-necked bulb from which rise strap-like leaves up to 90 cm (3 ft) long. The flowers are large, bell-like, about 15 cm (6 in) long, white tinted purple on the outside, and borne in clusters measuring about 40 cm (16 in) in length. In collections this plant is generally found under the name C. longifolium; it is also grown as a ‘pure’ species. It is almost fully hardy and can be readily grown outdoors under a thin layer of leaves or peat. The second parent — C. moorei — is native to Cape Province and Natal in South Africa. It is much larger than the preceding species; the bulb is about 20 cm (8 in) in diameter with a neck up to 50 cm (20 in) long. The leaves are approximately 90 cm (3 ft) long and almost 10 cm (4 in) wide. The flower clusters are about 60 cm (2 ft) long and composed of up to 10 flowers only slightly smaller than those of the other parent. They are coloured pink.

Crinum x powellii is about midway between the two parents in size. It is a plant for the cool conservatory, where it must be put in direct sun; it may also be grown outdoors in the garden. The bulbs should be planted with a small part of the long neck showing. The site should be one that is sheltered, warm and sunny, and the soil a rich, nourishing mixture. For better drainage sand should be added and the bulb placed on a thick layer of stones. During the summer the plants should be watered and fed liberally and in the autumn covered with a thick layer of leaves as protection against frost; this should not be removed until spring. Propagation is by offsets of the bulb which flower after about 3 years.

Recommended for warm, centrally-heated homes are some of the other 100 or so species, such as C. erubescetis from South America, with large flowers coloured white inside and red outside. If you have a large paludarium you can also grow C. pur-purascens from Africa (with narrow, red petals) in water or in a permanently wet substrate; and on ‘dry land’ the large C. asiaticum with white flowers.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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