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Nerine bowdenii - Planting and Growing for Autumn flowers


Subtlety goes out of the window with Nerines, but what an amazing show of shocking pink flowers - looking so delicate but so hardy - the Nerine bowdenii bulbs give us right at the doorway to Winter!

The bright pink colours of the Nerine group are the more vivid because of the flowering time - when most things have 'gone away' for the winter months.

Nerine bowdenii is by far the most showy of all Nerines with its gaudy ostentatious show of pink in November - sometimes as early as October.

This drift was photographed at the bottom of a house wall - dry as you like but loving the conditions as can be seen. In fact, the best displays I have seen or photographed have been where Nerine bowdenii bulbs in such situations, though they will grow in any garden area where the soil is on the dry side - including areas in shrub borders and of course herbaceous borders.

Nerines - Bright PinkThey are also suitable for planting in large patio containers - preferably stone or earthenware. 

The Nerines are members of the Amaryllidaceae - as can be seen instantly from the flowers. They originated in South Africa where they are to be found in rocky areas - even sitting precariously on high rock cliffs. They obviously like it dry!

Nerine bulbs - flowering in pots -are sometimes available in garden centres as Autumn flowering bulbs, but far better to overwinter them dry and cool and plant out in the garden flowering positions in the spring. Dormant or dry bulbs are normally available in spring, and can be planted right away.

Planting and Growing Nerine bowdenii bulbs.

They should be planted in the driest spot of the garden - as above - or planted with plenty of drainage by way of filling the planting hole with course grit or gravel. Nerine bulbs should be planted close together - they like the close company and certainly do best in crowded drifts. The leaves - which are strap-like - are almost insignificant - sometimes appearing before the long flower stalks - sometimes at flowering time.  Plant the bulbs with their tip just below or at soil surface. Full sun is best - if not necessary.

In the coldest of areas, it may be necessary to protect the Nerine bulbs. Apply deep mulch for winter protection. However, Nerine bowdenii and Nerine filifolia seem perfectly hardy in very cold parts of Kent - UK. Dry planting areas are the key to success and certainly not in areas prone to flooding or lying wet in winter.

Once the clumps are well established - after three/four years, they may be gently lifted in spring and divided, but don't try to separate into single bulbs. Clumps and clusters are best.

Propagation of Nerines.

Seed.  If you must, and you are patient, then ripe seed can be sown as soon as harvested in gentle heat until germinated. Pot up and grow in single small pots in coldframe for first year, then plant out in second year. Flower may then take another couple of years. Nerine bulbs from seeds are not for the impatient gardner!

Division.  As above, lift and divide the clumps during spring and replant immediately.

Problems with Nerines.

Slugs are attracted to foliage and flower stems - rarely doing too much harm. They do not generally like travelling over the dry areas where you are going to plant your Nerines!!   :-)

However, in damp autumns and winters, slugs will relish the late feast before settling down for the winter. A ring of coarse grit around your Nerine bulbs area is a good deterrent - not smooth fish tank gravel.

Types of Nerines.

  • Nerine bowdenii - as you will have noted - is my favourite - both as a gardener and as photographer. Flower stems get to around 18in (34cms) There is a white form - Nerine bowdenii f. Alba - but often insipid pink. Go for the real thing!
  • Nerine filifolia is much daintier, with shell pink flowers - smaller all round, and almost rush-like foliage, which verges on being evergreen - or at least always having some foliage showing. Flowering height is nearer to 12in (30cms)
  • Nerine 'Salmon Supreme' lives up to its name, and with flowers held aloft on 24in stems (60cms) earlier in Autumn than N. bowdenii..

 



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