On one such visit I discovered a string lily. What a beautiful surprise it was! It was growing vigorously in her front flower bed. I remarked at the time that it looked just like the lily seen blooming in streams and boggy places along the banks of the Mitchell River in Walton County, Florida. I had, however, tried to grow that lily in my garden, but had been unsuccessful. I knew it must be something different.
Later I learned that Aunt Gladys’ lily was Crinum erubescens, which closely resembles the native C. americanum that I had seen blooming along the banks of rivers and streams within its range. Even though the two look identical, gardeners can easily determine which one they have. If it grows well in ordinary garden soil, it is C. erubescens. Crinum americanum grows and blooms dependably over the long haul on boggy or wet soil and in standing water often found along river and stream banks.
The flowers are quite distinctive. Milky white, starlike flowers are held above the foliage on scapes from one to three feet tall. Pinkish buds arise at the tips of the scapes and open to reveal large, spidery, fragrant flowers. Quite distinctive are the rosy stamens positioned above each flower that add to their wispiness and almost ethereal appearance. Flowers are not long-lasting, so when one blooms, gardeners are sure to note its presence and enjoy it while they can. Strap-shaped leaves remain attractive in the garden until frost turns them to mush.
If you are able to get string lily for your garden, plant it in ordinary garden soil and give it some protection from harsh afternoon sun. While some fertility is desirable, too much will cause the plants to grow too vigorously.
After being killed to the ground by freezing weather, the foliage returns reliably each spring. Frequent division may be required as rhizomes spread about quite freely in fertile garden soil. A boundary within which to grow might prove beneficial and keep them from spreading where they are not wanted.
Plants are easily propagated by dividing the wide-ranging rhizomes. Dig the rImagehizomes and replant wherever you wish an additional planting, or pot them up to share with friends and fellow gardeners. C. erubescens grows well in tubs and other containers. As a matter of fact, tub culture is sometimes recommended as a method to keep growth within bounds.
I found our Crinum erubescens identified by several different names. Some are: Crinum americanum ‘Robustum’, Crinum americanum forma erubescens, and C. americanum var. robustum. Scott Ogden in Garden Bulbs for the South says there is a miniature species of string lily (C. oliganthum). Although it behaves much like its larger cousin, the tiny flowers only reach about six inches tall. He suggests using this diminutive version as a small-scale groundcover.
The string lily is one of my garden’s beautiful surprises. I was pleased to find a form of it that grows well in my garden. Keep your eyes open for such a lily in gardeners’ yards. Ask for a start of it, or order from on-line sources. I found several listed on the web. It’s worth searching for.
Say: KRY-num er-yoo-BESS-kens
Family: Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis Family)
Other names: String Lily
Origin: South America
Zones: 7-10
Light: Partial shade
Water Use: Moderate
Size: 1-3 feet tall
Soil: Organic, well-drained
Salt tolerance: Moderate