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How to Care for a Nerine Plant

Beautiful nerine flowers contrasted against yellow bush in ornamental garden

Genus Nerine

I’ve sat here for about 6 minutes trying to think of a pun to start out the article, but I have given up. Bet you’re nerinestrested in plants just isn’t working. Let me just get right into introducing you to the lovely and lesser known flowering plant: nerine.

This is a small genus of plants that exist in all provinces of South Africa. There are only about 30 of them, and they are better known under names like nerine lily, Guernsey lily, Jersey lily, spider lily, Japanese spider lily, Bowden lily, or cornish lily.

Even though they are all referred to as lilies, they are actually not true lilies at all and are instead part of the family amaryllidaceae! They get this common name because they are bulbous plants that produce lily-like flowers. The genus was first recorded in 1820 by a man named William Herbert.

You’ll love to learn about the nerine plant because it is one of the very last autumn blooming perennials to grace your garden as the others have come and gone for the season. Read on to learn all about the care of nerine plants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how ner-easy it really is! (How was that one?)

What do Nerine Plants Look Like?

Gorgeous bright pink nerine flowers growing in the garden

Growth Habit

Starting underneath the soil, nerine plants grow from underground bulbs. These bulbs help keep the plant dormant during those winter months and provide it with the water and nutrients it needs when the surroundings cannot.

Each bulb is kinda creepy looking, to be honest, and resembles a parsnip with a bunch of rootlets attached. If you decide to plant one of your own nerines you’ll become familiar with these nerine bulbs.

From the bulb will grow a long and sturdy flower stem that can grow up to 2 feet in length. This flower stem will bear a flower before the leaves of the plant develop.

Leaves

Many nerine species have evergreen leaves or semi evergreen leaves. This is a plant type that has leaves that will remain green and persist all year long, though in colder climates, they are sometimes deciduous.

The length and leaf shape will vary from species to species, but overall these plants bear long, strap shaped leaves. Each leaf is glossy and dark green in color.

Focus on pink nerine flowers surrounded by dark evergreen foliage

Flowers

Gardeners love nerine plants for their flowers. A nerine flower is very similarly shaped to that of a lily, though the petals are much more narrow and they tend to have recurved petals with a curly shape to them.

Nerine flowers appear on the end of a tall flower stem before the leaves of the plant develop. They will be various shades; starting from crisp white and moving through light pink and the way to crimson.

Nerine flowers are also known for being late bloomers. Though this term usually has a negative connotation, it is positive in this instance! When all the other summer perennials are faded away, the nerine plant provides you with its flower bloom season in the late summer and early fall, and last all the way until after the first frost of the season.

Where is Nerine a Native Plant?

Bright pink nerine plants in full bloom growing in a huge field

If you’re new to gardening, do yourself a favor and start incorporating some origin based research to your practice! Learning where a plant comes from really helps you understand how to keep it happy anywhere else in the world.

Nerine plants are native to South Africa, and different species are present in all of the provinces. They are commonly associated with mesic habitats and are very prevalent in the regions that receive summer rainfall. They are also beloved plants of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

When growing wild, they can be found growing in rocky sites and arid plains. This indicates that they growing naturally in places that are more on the dry side that are absolutely baked by the sun.

When growing outside of their native habitat, they can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10. Outside of these zones, they can be kept outdoors during the warm summer months, but should be brought indoors once things start to get chilly.

What are some Nerine Species?

Focus image on hot pink nerine filifolia flowers blooming

Nerine Undulata

Nerine undulata is a plant species that is native to Eastern Cape and it gets its name from the unique way that its flowers form,

N undulata is a bulbous perennial plant that can be identified by its narrow leaves that are shaped like blades of grass, and pale pink flowers that have a lovely crinkled effect to them.

Nerine Bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii is a species of a herbaceous bulbous perennial that is native to the Cape of South Africa. Here they refer to it as the cornish lily, Cape flower, Guernsey lily or Bowden lily.

N bowdenii can be identified by its strap shaped leaves and large umbels of light pink flowers. These flowers bloom in the late summer all through autumn. They will usually grow to be 18 inches in height and are a perfect garden bed plant.

Nerine Sarniensis

Nerine sarniensis can grow all over the temperate regions of the world but is native to the Western Cape of Southern Africa. It is referred to commonly as a Jersey lily or Guernsey lily.

N sarniensis a bulbous perennial that can be identified by its scarlet flowers with purple anthers. These flowers bloom in the later summer through autumn, and it is known amongst gardeners as being one of the longest lasting cut flower specimens! It grows to be about 28 inches in height.

Nerine Pudica Hookf

Nerine pudica hookf (weird name, I know) that is native to the Western Cape and is known as being an awesome winter growing nerine species.

Gardeners love it for large rock gardens and as a container plant. This variety can be identified by its light pink flowers. It will be dormant in summer, blooms in the fall, and grows in the winter.

Nerine Filifolia

Nerine filifolia is better known as the grass leaved nerine, and it is a native plant to the Eastern Cape of Southern Africa. This is one of the less common, semi deciduous species.

N filifolia is a summer growing bulbous plant that can be identified by its bright pink flowers that bloom at the end of summer.

What are the Growing Conditions of Nerine Plants?

Beautiful red and pink nerine flowers growing in a large garden with towering trees

Now that we’ve gone over the physical characteristics, the native homeland, and some specific species of nerine plants, it is time to learn just how easy it is to care for one of your very own!

Soil Type

Though they are capable of tolerating a variety of soil types, there are some characteristics that the potting medium of a nerine plant should have.

It is very important that the soil type is very well drained. This can be achieved by simply incorporating some sand into the mix.

Additionally, nerine plants seem to perform best when they are able to grow in organically rich soil. This can be achieved by incorporating some compost at the beginning on the growing season. This will not only increase the nutrient content, but will also encourage proper drainage as well!

Sun Exposure

The amount of sun exposure that your nerine plant receives will vary depending on the climate that you live in. If you live somewhere particularly hot, your plant should be receiving tons of morning sunlight, but some partial shade in the heat of the summer afternoon.

If you live somewhere with a cooler climate, you can place your plant in an area that receives all day, direct sunlight. This will encourage enthusiastic flower production.

Water Level

The watering level for your nerine plant will vary throughout the year. It is important that they receive plenty of water throughout their growing season. This is essential for producing foliage and flower blossoms.

Outside of their growing season, a nerine plant is remarkably drought tolerant, and it is actually best that their bulbs are able to dry out when they are going into those dormancy phases in the winter.

Simply gorgeous clusters of hot pink nerine flowers growing in garden

Temperature

Considering that they are native to a pretty warm continent, the nerine lily is a surprisingly cold hardy plant. Though it won’t survive winter (it will go dormant in warmer areas) it can tolerate some mild frost. It should be brought indoors if temperatures regularly dip below 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer

Like we mentioned before, incorporating some compost to your soil mix at the beginning of the spring season will provide a ton of natural nutrients. You can also provide your plant with a low nitrogen fertilizer once in the spring and again in the summer.

* Folks recommend a specific type of fertilizer called John Innes no. 2 for the nerine plant.

Pruning

Not much needs to be done in way of pruning a nerine plant. They grow in a very neat and tidy growth habit, but you can deadhead your plant after the growing season has finished.

Simply cut back the flowering stem right down to the quick once the flowers have finishing blossoming. This will make it easier for the plant to grow a new flowering stem the following year.

How do you Propagate a Nerine Plant?

Tall and lovely potted nerine plants with flowers in full bloom

As you can see, caring for a nerine plant won’t require much more from you than any of your other garden plants do! If you’re still keen on growing one of your own, here are a few simple steps to get you started:

1. Wait until the early spring to plant bulb, until after the last danger of frost has passed.

2. Pick a spot on your property that has very well draining soil and receives plenty of sunlight. Sunlight can be all day if you live somewhere cool, but there should be partial shade if you live somewhere hot.

3. Dig holes that are about twice the size as the bulbs and 8-10 inches apart from one another. Place the bulbs neck side up so that the very tip of it is sticking out of the soil.

4. Make sure to deeply water the soil right after the bulbs are planted and maintain soil moisture as they are first getting established.

And there you have it! Incorporating nerine plants to your garden is a piece of cake. They will start taking root in no time, and will start growing that lovely foliage in a few short weeks.

After Care: Once the plant has blossomed and winter is approaching, it’s a good idea to dig up those nerine bulbs before the ground freezes. They won’t survive temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can be brought indoors during the winter.

Just store them in in a pot of peat moss and place that pot in a dry and cool place. They will simply go dormant and can be planted again the following early spring!

How are Nerine Plants Used?

Very lovely tall flower stems and pink nerine flowers against stone wall

Ornamental Plant

Gardeners love to grow nerine lily for several reasons. It is gorgeous, it smells good, it’s very easy to care for, and is blossoms later in the year, extending the season of your garden right before winter starts.

The nerine plant is a perfect container plant and can easily be kept as an indoor plant too! They’re commonly planted as part of a perennial border and are just as well in a garden bed as well.

Not only that, thanks to those long and sturdy flower stems, nerine is an impeccable cut flower specimen. Horticulturists say that this is one of the longest lasting cut flowers you could put in a vase!

FAQs

Are nerine plants deer resistant?

Though they are not entirely deer resistant, larger pests like squirrels, rabbits, and deer, will more commonly graze on other plants before they will graze upon a nerine plant.

What are the damaging agents for nerine plants?

Nerine plants are pretty tough. The main things to avoid are over watering your plants, as this can damage the bulbs, and also trying not to over crowd your plants. This can sometimes result in poor flower production.

Is nerine an annual plant or perennial plant?

As long as a nerine plant is growing in a warm enough climate, it will live as a perennial plant and continue to blossom year after year. If it is left outside in a cold climate it will live as an annual plant.

Do nerine plants have sensitive bulbs?

Starting underneath the soil, nerine plants grow from underground bulbs. These bulbs help keep the plant dormant during those winter months and provide it with the water and nutrients it needs when the surroundings cannot.

Each bulb is kinda creepy looking, to be honest, and resembles a parsnip with a bunch of rootlets attached. If you decide to plant one of your own nerines you’ll become familiar with these nerine bulbs.

From the bulb will grow a long and sturdy flower stem that can grow up to 2 feet in length. This flower stem will bear a flower before the leaves of the plant develop.

Can nerine plants be grown indoors?

A nerine plant can easily be kept in a pot indoors as long as it is given enough room to grow, has proper drainage, and is placed in a south facing window.

Are nerine plants hardy?

Considering that they are native to a pretty warm continent, the nerine lily is a surprisingly cold hardy plant. Though it won’t survive winter (it will go dormant in warmer areas) it can tolerate some mild frost. It should be brought indoors if temperatures regularly dip below 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Does nerine grow from seed?

Nerine can also be grown from seed. Just sprinkle them in a tray of seed grit and compost and they should germinate in a few short weeks.

Can nerine grow in shade?

The amount of sun exposure that your nerine plant receives will vary depending on the climate that you live in. If you live somewhere particularly hot, your plant should be receiving tons of morning sunlight, but some partial shade in the heat of the summer afternoon.

If you live somewhere with a cooler climate, you can place your plant in an area that receives all day, direct sunlight. This will encourage enthusiastic flower production.

How should nerine plants be pruned?

Not much needs to be done in way of pruning a nerine plant. They grow in a very neat and tidy growth habit, but you can deadhead your plant after the growing season has finished.

Simply cut back the flowering stem right down to the quick once the flowers have finishing blossoming. This will make it easier for the plant to grow a new flowering stem the following year.

When does a nerine flower bloom?

Nerine flowers are also known for being late bloomers. Though this term usually has a negative connotation, it is positive in this instance! When all the other summer perennials are faded away, the nerine plant provides you with its flower bloom season in the late summer and early fall, and last all the way until after the first frost of the season.

What is the ideal soil type for nerine plants?

Though they are capable of tolerating a variety of soil types, there are some characteristics that the potting medium of a nerine plant should have.

It is very important that the soil type is very well drained. This can be achieved by simply incorporating some sand into the mix.

Additionally, nerine plants seem to perform best when they are able to grow in organically rich soil. This can be achieved by incorporating some compost at the beginning on the growing season. This will not only increase the nutrient content, but will also encourage proper drainage as well!

How tall do nerine plants get?

The flowering stems of a nerine plant will usually grow anywhere from 12 to 24 inches in height.

Do nerine plants need fertilizer?

Like we mentioned before, incorporating some compost to your soil mix at the beginning of the spring season will provide a ton of natural nutrients. You can also provide your plant with a low nitrogen fertilizer once in the spring and again in the summer.

* Folks recommend a specific type of fertilizer called John Innes no. 2 for the nerine plant.

What are some other common names for a nerine plant?

This is a small genus of plants that exist in all provinces of South Africa. There are only about 30 of them, and they are better known under names like nerine lily, Guernsey lily, Jersey lily, spider lily, Japanese spider lily, Bowden lily, or cornish lily.

Even though they are all referred to as lilies, they are actually not true lilies at all and are instead part of the family amaryllidaceae!

How often should a nerine be watered?

The watering level for your nerine plant will vary throughout the year. It is important that they receive plenty of water throughout their growing season. This is essential for producing foliage and flower blossoms.

Outside of their growing season, a nerine plant is remarkably drought tolerant, and it is actually best that their bulbs are able to dry out when they are going into those dormancy phases in the winter.

What USDA growing zone can nerine grow in?

When growing wild, they can be found growing in rocky sites and arid plains. This indicates that they growing naturally in places that are more on the dry side that are absolutely baked by the sun.

When growing outside of their native habitat, they can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10. Outside of these zones, they can be kept outdoors during the warm summer months, but should be brought indoors once things start to get chilly.

When should nerine bulbs be planted?

Nerine bulbs should be planted in the early spring, but after the last threat of frost has passed.