As my wife and I traveled around the Southeast last week visiting family and old friends, one stop was especially memorable. We spent a couple of days in Augusta, Georgia, which is right across the line from Beech Island, South Carolina. There, we had the opportunity to catch up with a classmate of mine from the Clemson University horticulture program.

Jenks Farmer is an author and world-class crinum lily grower. His nursery is unique and full of history. We studied horticulture together in the late 1980s, and to tell you the truth, neither of us has changed a bit.

So, this week I want to talk about crinum lilies and share some of what I discussed with my friend.

Crinum lilies are one of those old-timey staple plants in many Southern summer gardens and landscapes. These plants are striking in the landscape with their nodding flowers perched atop stalks that can be over 5 feet tall, depending on the selection.

To me, these plants resemble a favorite Christmas-season plant, the amaryllis, and many other folks think so, too. I get lots of calls asking if amaryllis will flower in the summer because someone saw them growing in a neighbor’s yard.

It is understandable that some people are a little confused; I must admit it happens to me a lot. After all, crinum and amaryllis are in the same family, so the similarity is not surprising.

The large and showy flowers of crinum lilies are available in a variety colors, including white, rose, light and deep pink, and striped, which may be my favorites. The scented flowers are perfect for an evening garden, and they are pollinated at night.

The green foliage grows as a rosette and is strap-like and evergreen. There are even selections with purplish and maroon leaves.

Crinum lilies are bulbs that are pretty easy to grow, and they are low-maintenance plants. They tolerate almost any soil. While they are drought tolerant, consistent soil moisture improves their summer flowering.

These are extremely long-lived plants. It’s not uncommon to see crinum lilies growing in cemeteries and abandoned home sites, thriving despite being totally neglected. I’ve heard speakers refer to crinum lilies as the plant that’s likely to outlive the gardener who plants it.

Crinums lilies are a classic pass-along plant, and if you have a neighbor with these beautiful plants, be sure to ask if you can have a few offsets. Sharing shouldn’t be a problem, as the crinum bulbs are prolific offshoot producers.

If you’re interested in buying crinums, you’ll have to go to online sources. There you can also find more information about these plants and books on the subject.

• Dr. Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also the host of the popular Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at southerngardening@msstate.edu

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