Crinum is a genus of about 100 species, most of which occur in Africa. There are five species native to Australia.
Crinum pedunculatum is strictly described as a large bulbous perennial herb, which may reach 2 (or even 3) metres high by a 2-3 metre spread. The leaves are strappy and up to 2m long by 15cm wide and thickened, with blunt points. The flowers, occurring from November to March, are white and about 10cm across in clusters of 10-25. They are pleasantly perfumed. They are followed by rounded, beaked seed capsules 2 to 5cm across.
This large lily is a very versatile and hardy plant. It makes a great feature plant for the home garden, especially when large. It can be grown in a wide range of conditions from full sun to half shade or more. It tolerates poor drainage and clay soils, and can be planted successfully under established eucalypts. It is suitable for coastal areas and tolerates frosts. Swamp lilies also flower well in containers. Though hardy, these plants may end up as food for a couple of garden pests. The smooth black, white and yellow striped caterpillars of the moth Spodoptera picta may demolish a young plant very quickly. Also, snails and slugs find the large fleshy leaves tasty so young plants may need some protection from them.
Crinum pedunculatum is also hardy enough to use in street planting. One such use is in suburban Marrickville in Sydney, where large swamp lilies up to 2 metres high flank street benches along the commercial shopping strip. It can also be seen used effectively in amenity plantings in the Whitsundays (Queensland), around a new landscaped public pool in Airlie Beach and as a beach plant at some of the resorts.
The species is easily grown from seed, which should be kept moist. Seeds sometimes germinate while still attached to the parent plant.
Photos: Jeff Howes
Photos: Jeff Howes