Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, crinums are forever

My Ellen Bosanquet has been its prettiest ever this year. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

My Ellen Bosanquet has been its prettiest ever this year. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

I have a love/hate relationship with a quintessential Southern plant — crinums.

Love the flowers.

Loathe the foliage.

I have three crinum clumps in my back yard, and most of the year I wonder why. To call their foliage rank is a colossal understatement. The individual strappy leaves grow up at first, but when they reach a certain tipping point, say around 3 to 4 feet, they flop over onto their neighbors and just keep growing. My Ellen Bosanquet leaves  get at least 5 feet long and snake along the ground. I really try not to let it bother me – no one would ever call me a tidy gardener  – but it does.

So why don’t I get rid of them? Because the flowers are beautiful and fragrant, they bloom in the dead of summer and you simply can’t kill the plants, no matter how much you neglect them. In fact, William Welch, a Texas A&M horticulture professor and author, has been quoted as saying that none have ever died. He might be right. Think about it. What’s one of the most common plants still growing at old home places where no gardener has lived in decades? Crinums. If they had the ability to dig the hole they’re planted in, they wouldn’t need any help from us at all.

Speaking of digging, have you ever seen someone try to wrestle a clump of crinums out of the ground? I have, and it’s not pretty. Mature bulbs can reach near volleyball size and draw themselves deep into the ground where they don’t come up without a fight. That’s a third reason the bulbs I have won’t be going anywhere.

So before you plant crinums, ask yourself if you love the flowers enough to deal with the foliage. Because once you’ve got ‘em, they probably aren’t going anywhere.

What do you say? Are you a crinum lover or loather? Leave a comment below.

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