Crinum Lily

Swamp Lily - Spider Lily

The Crinum lily (also called swamp or spider lily) is a large specimen plant with long strap-like leaves. The foliage, which ranges from bright green to nearly black, is as striking as the large trumpet-shaped flowers.

Crinum lily in bloom with a flower stalk emerging.

In some cultivars, the leaves are narrow and arch toward the ground. In others, they are wide and push toward the sky. There are varieties that grow to less than 3 feet and those that grow to more than 5 feet tall.

Crinum lily flower cluster, white spiders.

The plant grows from a large bulb. When planting a spider lily, leave the top third of the bulb above the soil. Well composted soil will yield quicker growth but swamp lilies tolerate poor, sandy soil well.

We have several spider lilies around the yard. They don't seem to require any special care. I feed them whatever I'm giving the plants around them in the spring, summer, and fall if I don't forget. They bloom periodically throughout the growing season no matter what I do or neglect to do.

Crinum lily with red leaves growing in Nassau, Bahamas. The thick flower stalks emerge from the bases of the plants. There is usually only one 2-3 foot stalk per plant. At the end of each stalk, a cluster of flower buds will form.

Soon, the buds will open into a cluster of (usually) sweetly fragrant flowers. The scent carries for some distance. I can smell the ones in the east border from the screen porch. A distance of about 10 feet.

The flowers of most varieties are white. A few cultivars produce pink blooms. The flowers are followed by round, green seed capsules about the size of golf balls. You can propagate the Crinum lily by planting these seeds but the resulting plants will take years to bloom. The bulbs produce offsets periodically. These develop quickly into blooming plants.

The flower stalks are heavy and weak at their bases. They will sometimes break when it rains. When this happens, I cut the flowers off with about 8 inches of stalk attached and bring them inside where I can continue to enjoy them in a vase.

Crinum lily leaf undersides displaying red coloring.

The undersides of the leaves sometimes display beautiful coloring.

The swamp lily is a member of the Amarylis family. It is perennial in the ground from zone 8b-11. Here, in zone 9a, the foliage is damaged by winter frosts. I just remove the ugly leaves in the spring and the plants quickly recover. In zones colder than 8b, the plant can be grown in a large tub.

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