The best thing about receiving a passalong plant is that every time you see it in your garden, you immediately recall the time you got it and the person who gave it. So it is with my ‘Milk and Wine’ crinum lily, a bulb that will never die.
The many species of crinum lilies are native to the warm and tropical parts of the world that include the Americas, Africa, and Asia. They’re known for large, coarse leaves reminiscent of amaryllis, as well as showy spikes of trumpet-shaped, often fragrant flowers. In time, they form enormous bulbs you almost need a backhoe to transplant. This size gives them the backbone to survive decades of utter neglect. As Felder Rushing, co-author of our award-wining book, Passalong Plants, observed, “No crinum has ever died.”
Milk and Wine Is Fine
Crinums exhibit many different flower shapes and colors. Red, pink, and white are common. I think my favorite of all is the classic hybrid, ‘Milk and Wine.’ One of the earliest crinums to bloom in summer, it features showy white blooms with burgundy-red stripes. Flowers point outward at first, then hang straight down like clothes on a line. Flowers appear several times a year, usually a week after heavy rain. Mine came as a gift from Texas plant hunter, Greg Grant. Every time it blooms, I say, “Thanks, Greg.” (Grumpy has a way with words.)
‘Milk and Wine’ is cold-hardy to USDA Zone 7. Hardier crinums, such as Crinum bulbispermum, may be hardy to USDA Zone 5. While established crinums take all kinds of abuse, give new ones a sunny spot and fertile soil. Plant them so the neck of the bulb is even with the soil surface. If your drainage is bad, don’t worry. Crinums do fine in wet soil.
Where to Buy Crinums
Because pretty much no one buys crinum lilies when they’re out of bloom, few garden and home centers carry them. You either have to convince a friend share one with you or order through the mail. Here are several top-notch mail-order sources.
1. Jenks Farmer