Nerine bowdenii

Only a few plants can be recommended as heartily as nerines for not only are they beautiful flowers but also very easily grown. A suitable spot can surely be found in most homes for providing the cooler condi-tions and light they need in winter, otherwise there are no special requirements.

The genus embraces some 15 species distributed in South Africa. All are more or less alike. The leaves are generally narrowly strap-shaped to linear, about 30 cm (1 ft) long, smooth and glossy. The stems are about 30 cm (1 ft) high and carry clusters of large, pink or scarlet flowers with recurved segments and long stamens terminated by coloured anthers. The style is likewise very long and ends in a small trifid stigma.

Naturally this description does not fit all the species. N-. flexuosa, for example, has a greatly twisted flower stem up to 80 cm (32 in) high; N. filifolia is a very small species with linear leaves less than 20 cm (8 in) long and small dainty flowers. Type species, however, are becoming ever fewer in cultivation, the only ones commonly en-countered being the species and N. sarniensis — the Guernsey lily (it grows wild on the island of Guernsey where it apparently became established after a ship carrying the bulbs was wrecked on its shores; otherwise it is a native of Cape Province).

Nowadays the genus Nerine is the subject of intensive breeding in Europe, the United States of America, and above all Japan, where a great many attractive hybrids have been raised. This plant is very valuable not only for flower-lovers but also for the cut-flower trade, for the blooms retain their beauty for as long as 14 days in a vase.

Cultivation is not at all difficult. The bulbs should be planted in John Innes potting compost No. 1, best of all in small troughs. In winter they should be kept in a cool but well-lit spot and watered to promote the growth of leaves, for otherwise the plants will not flower. In spring, when the leaves die down, water should be withheld and the bulbs left to dry out and be baked thoroughly in the sun during the summer. Growth is resumed in autumn, which is when the plants also bear flowers, and so watering should be resumed. The plants are readily propagated by offsets of the bulb.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nerine bowdenii

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