Planting Guide: How to plant, grow and care for your Nerine
Nerine is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Amaryllidoideae. They are bulbous perennials, some evergreen, associated with rocky and arid habitats. They bear spherical umbels of flowers in shades from white through pink to crimson. In the case of deciduous species, the flowers may appear on naked stems before the leaves develop. Native to South Africa, there are about 90 species in the genus. The genus was established by the Revd. William Herbert in 1820.
Nerines have been widely cultivated and much hybridized worldwide, especially Nerine bowdenii, N. masoniorum, N. sarniensis and N. undulata (previously known as N. flexuosa). Most of the other 20 species are rarely cultivated and very little is known regarding their biology. Many species are threatened with extinction due to the loss or degradation of their habitat.
The genus name given to it by Herbert in 1820 derives from the Nereids (sea-nymphs) of Greek mythology that protected sailors and their ships. Herbert combined Morison’s account of the plant being washed ashore from a shipwreck with Renaissance poetry, alluding to the rescue of Vasco da Gama’s ship by a Nereid in the epic poem of Camões, Os Lusiadas.
Life Cycle (Southern Hemisphere)
Normally the Nerine flower from March to May and then send up their leaves. Some species however flower before they send up their leaves.
To plant a bulb
In a pot;
Plant in a free-flowing mix. Withhold water from November to February. The water should not be able to sit in place. Water freely, about once a week to encourage flowering from March. Place the bulb so that they are about two thirds out of the potting mix, so that they can draw themselves down to the appropriate level for the bulb. When the rains come in March they will start generating new root growth, followed by flowers and then the leaves. Fertilise with half strength fertiliser (to promote flowering and bulb growth) from April to July.
In the ground;
The ground needs to be free from weeds. If they get too much water, they will rot. Plant with some protection from late afternoon sun, preferably with 40% sun-shade. Not too much or they will not flower. Otherwise treat them as if they were potted.
Seed multiplication may be used for the development of new cultivars. Like most Amaryllids the seeds need to be planted within days of ripening. Plants obtained from seeds may take four years, or more, to bloom and are unlikely to be true unless they are species which have been kept separate.
Nerines will form large clumps if they are not disturbed.
Most Nerines will take a gentle frost though some have flowered the season after a particularly harsh frost.
Many Nerines have no perfume.
Cultivar flowering takes place from late March until May.
Very few species are available in cultivation and hence the majority of what is grown are the hybrids.
Most Nerine bulbs require a dormancy period and this is usually over summer.
Species grow in Summer rainfall areas of South Africa.
Breeding and hybridisation of Nerine began as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century with the work of William Herbert. A number of the species of this genus are cultivated as ornamentals, such as N. sarniensis, N. undulata (N. flexuosa) and Nerine bowdenii. N. sarniensis is, probably, the best known species of the genus and it has been cultivated in Europe since the beginning of the 17th Century. N. bowdenii was introduced to England at the end of the 19th Century and used as an ornamental since the first decade of the 20th Century. Along with Nerine bowdenii they have been extensively used in plant breeding programmes that have produced the majority of the commercially available hybrids.
The bulbs of Nerine species need a minimum of two years growth and development in order to produce their first flowers. The largest bulbs can give rise to two stems or more if they have been grown under suitable conditions. They are used as cut flowers as they can survive up to 14 days in a vase with water without showing any staining.
Best results are obtained by leaving them to form a clump.