If you are searching for a unique little flower to keep your garden company well into the end of the season, try Nerine lilies. These South African natives spring from bulbs and produce blooms with curly petals in pink hues or sometimes white, red, and orange. Site conditions and soil are important information on how to grow Nerine bulbs.
Nerine lily bulbs are not hardy below 38 F. (3 C.), so you should check your gardening zone before planting. You can also treat them as annuals but rather than waste these lovely flowers, pull the bulbs and overwinter them. Growing instructions for Nerine lilies are similar to most summer blooming bulbs.
Nerine Bulb Information
There are nearly 30 species of these bulbs, which are also called Bowden Cornish lily or Japanese spider lily. One fascinating bit of Nerine bulb information is in how they arise. Flowers start first and only after they are spent does the foliage appear. The more commonly grown forms of the bulb are N. bowdenii and N. sarniensis.
Nerine bowdenii is the hardiest of the species and may be grown in USDA zones 7 to 10b. The plants get up to 24 inches tall and around 9 inches wide. Stiff, strangely wiry stems sprout from Nerine lily bulbs in spring, followed by the brilliant blooms with strappy petals that curl gently backwards in fall.
These amazing blooms are usually included in a perennial border or bed. Place them near the back so the flowers can soar above lower growing plants. For gardeners in zones below 7, you will need to bring the bulbs indoors for winter if you wish to save them.
This leads to another of the Nerine uses — as a container ornamental. Plant the bulb in the center of a pot that is at least 18 inches deep and surround it with annuals or other flowering bulbs. If using bulbs, plant a succession of bloomers so you have bright color all season long. Then follow average growing instructions for Nerines.
How to Grow Nerine Lilies
Nerine lily bulbs require excellent drainage and slightly gritty, yet organically rich, soil. Amend the flower bed with generous amounts of compost worked in to increase porosity and nutrient content.
In spring, choose a location in full sun and plant the bulbs with an inch of the slender top above the soil surface. Install bulbs 8 to 11 inches apart for a massed look.
Cut spent flower stems but leave the foliage until the end of the season. If you are a northern gardener, pull up the bulbs and allow them to dry for a day or two. Then pack them in a paper bag, box, or just a nest of peat moss and store them indoors for the winter.