INFORMATION ABOUT NERINE AMARYLLIS…
By: Nikki Phipps
Nerine is a genus of 25-30 species in the Amaryllis family and native to South Africa. This genus is made up of small to medium sized bulbous plants.
Its name refers to the Nereids, or sea-nymphs, of Greek mythology. Nerines are also known as the Guernsey Lily because at one time some of the bulbs washed ashore Guernsey in the English Channel from a passing ship, establishing themselves at that spot.
The nerine is an elegant and dainty flower with long stems and slender, curled petals. Some species of Nerine are evergreen, while others are summer or winter growing. Nerines are considered to be some of the finest fall-flowering bulbs, reliably brightening up an autumn garden with their soft pastel colors. Nerines make great cut flowers as they retain freshness for a considerable amount of time. Nerines look great against dark or evergreen backdrops.
These bulbs should be planted in spring in well-drained soil and preferably in a location where they can receive plenty of sun. The bulbs should be placed in the ground, or container, with the neck above the soil. Additionally, water should be withheld until the flower spikes appear, and then freely watered during the growing season until the foliage begins to turn yellow. After the leaves die down, keep them dry. Once emerging flowers begin to reappear in autumn, give them a thorough watering. Bulbs should be left in pots in full sun without any water at all until flower spikes appear again.
They are considered to be tender; therefore, in colder climates nerine bulbs, with exception to N. bowdenii, must be grown under glass or indoors, as they cannot withstand heavy frost on the foliage. These bulbs do well in, and prefer, a Mediterranean type of climate. If grown in pots or containers, the soil should be a mixture of fibrous loam, coarse sand, and compost.
The bulbs of nerines multiply quickly, and nerines can be transplanted at any time of the year provided they are not in bloom. However, nerines do not appreciate being disturbed, and as a result, will not bloom as freely.
This plant prefers to be overcrowded and will actually bloom more profusely under these conditions. Only lift and divide the clumps when serious overcrowding diminishes the number of flowers. Common pests affecting Nerine species includes the amaryllis caterpillar, which can easily be picked off by hand.
Commonly known as Cape flower, N. bowdenii is the best known variety. It is a summer-growing species which flowers in the fall and is deciduous in winter. It has pink flowers, but there are also white-flowered forms.
N. bowdenii reaches about 12-25 inches tall and is the hardiest of the nerine species.
Another species, N. sarniensis, has red-orange flowers appearing around the Christmas season. This species is regarded as the most beautiful; unfortunately, it is also the most notorious for erratic flowering.
N. krigei characterized by the spiral twist to its leaves. The flowers bloom in summer, unlike many of the other nerine species, which bloom in the fall. Its dark green or rose midribs show up nicely against its light pink blooms. While most nerines produce abundant offsets but do not bloom every year, this species produces few offsets and blooms every season.
N. undulata is a summer-growing species and blooms freely in the fall with several pale pink flowers having crinkled edges and nearly evergreen foliage.