How to Grow Milk-and-Wine Lilies — Crinum

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Crinum — commonly called milk-and-wine lilies–are tender perennials grown for their showy umbels of usually funnel or bell-shaped white flowers that resemble lilies. The fragrant flowers rise in spring or summer from clumps of long, strap-shaped leaves.

Some Crinum species have flowers with very narrow tepals that create a spidery effect; they are sometimes called spider lilies.

There are about 130 species in the Crinum genus. All are native to the tropics in both the Old and New Worlds where they grow along streams and the edges of lakes. In some regions, Crinum is known commonly as swamp lily.

Where Crinum is marginally hardy, Zone 6, plants should be set in a south facing location and protected in winter with coarse mulch or evergreen boughs,

Giant White Spider Lily - Crinum asiaticum
Giant White Spider Lily – Crinum asiaticum

Get to know Crinum 

  • Plant type: Bulb 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 7 to 10. 
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 7
  • Height and width: 24 to 48 inches (30 to 60cm) tall and 5 inches (13cm) wide
  • Foliage: Long strap-shaped or sword-shaped leaves form clumps
  • Flowers: Large, 4 to 6 inch, fragrant, white, pink, reddish, or bicolor lily-shaped flowers. 
  • Bloom time: Late summer to fall. 
  • Uses: Add a lush tropical look to perennial gardens. 
  • Garden companions: Dahlias, chrysanthemums, and asters. 
  • Common name: Milk-and-wine lilies 
  • Botanical name: Crinum 
  • Family name: Liliaceae
  • Origin: Native to the tropics

Where to plant Crinum 

  • Plant Crinum in full sun or partial shade. Shade during the hottest part of the day is beneficial.
  • Plant Crinum in humus-rich, well-drained, moist soil.  
  • In marginally hardy zones, plant in a warm, south-facing site.
  • Crinum tolerates salt spray. 
Crinum x hybrid Mrs. James Hendry
Crinum x hybrid Mrs. James Hendry

When to plant Crinum 

  • Plant Crinum bulbs in spring.
  • Sow crinum seeds as soon as they are ripe.  
  • Replant Crinum outside when the weather settles.  

Planting and spacing Crinum 

  • In spring, plant Crinum with bulb necks just above soil.  
  • Space Crinum 2 to 3 feet (.6-1m) apart.

How to water and feed Crinum 

  • Keep Crinum continuously moist.
  • Feed Crinum with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring. 
  • Feed container-grown Crinum two or three times during the growing season.

How to care for Crinum 

  • In areas colder than Zone 8, treat Crinum as a tender plant.  
  • North of Zone 7, dig, dry, and store crinum bulbs indoors over winter. 
  • Protect bulbs in cold winter regions with coarse mulch or evergreen boughs.

Growing Crinum as a houseplant

  • Place Crinum in pots in a room with average temperature and humidity and direct light.
  • The growing medium should be kept evenly moist, and fertilizer should be applied monthly when the plant is growing or flowering.
  • After the blooms fade, reduce water; water only enough to keep the plant from wilting.
  • Repot as necessary in spring and increase water.

Crinum pests and diseases 

  • Crinum can develop anthracnose, red leaf spots, and mosaic virus. 
  • Crinum has no serious insect troubles.  
White Swamp lily flower, Crinum americanum
White Swamp lily flower, Crinum americanum

Crinum propagation 

  • Sow seeds in spring.
  • Divide Crinum plants in spring by removing and replanting the offsets from the main bulb.  

Crinum varieties to grow 

  • Crinum americannum, southern swamp lily is native to bogs in Florida and Texas; bears umbels of fragrant purple-brown flowers from late spring t fall.
  • C. asiaticum bears fragrant white flowers in spring and summer. 2 feet (.6m) tall. Zones 8 to 11.  
  • C. bulbispermum, deep sea lily, has pink flowers or red flowers with white insides in Zones 6 to 10.  
  • C. hybrids include rose pink-flowered ‘Braley’, white-flowered ‘Carolina Beauty’, and ‘Ellen Bosanquet’, a hybrid, has very fragrant reddish-purple flowers. 2 feet (.6m) tall.  
  • C. moorei. Grows 3 to 4 feet and has 4 to 6 inche red flowers on 3-foot stems. Cultivars ‘Album’ has white flowers; ‘Roseum’ has pink flowers.
  • C. powellii, Powell milk-and-wine lily, is a beautiful hybrid with 4-inch-wide (10cm) umbels of showy, fragrant, pink flowers on leafless stems. To 5 feet (1.5m) tall. ‘Album’ is pure white.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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