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A Focus on Nerines

They are easy to grow and late flowering so there is a lot to love about Nerines as our gardens transition from late summer to early autumn. Putting them in the spotlight, A Focus on Nerines, looks at the history, meaning, and some frequently asked questions.

Delicate in their appearance, clusters of lily-like flowers top slender green stems bringing much needed colour to our gardens as the seasons change.

Native to South Africa there are about 20-30 species of Nerine. Often described as lilies they actually more closely resemble their relatives  Amaryllis and Lycoris The genus was established by the British Botanist Revd. William Herbert in 1820. He recorded the name Nerine, rejecting an earlier attributed title, Imhofia given by Lorenz Heister in 1755 as he had not initially been aware of it and noted that it had not been either defined or adopted by Heister.

Herbert also recorded a wonderful story of how boxes of one of the first Nerine genus, Nerine sarniensis made it from South Africa to Guernsey in the English Channel. They were destined for the Netherlands but ended up shipwrecked off the coast of Guernsey and subsequently established themselves and multiplied around the coast.

Sarniensis is probably the best known species in Europe since the beginning of the 17th century. The Nerine Bowdenii which we love and sell in vibrant pink, was introduced to England towards the end of the 19th century. Both Sarniensis and Bowdenii have been used in plant breeding programmes that have produced the majority of the commercially available hybrids you see today. The hybrid Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’ has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit.

As part of our, A Focus on Nerines, we have included some frequently asked questions below.

Are Nerines hardy plants?

Nerines such as Bowdenii are grown from bulbs so when you purchase one as a plant they are fully hardy and once planted and established you don’t need to worry about taking them in as they will survive temperatures as low as -10c. Some of the more frost tender varieties may need taking into the greenhouse for protection during the winter months.

What growing conditions do they like?

They are happy in full sun or partial shade and will grow in any free draining soil. They are also suitable for containers and borders and will look great in your garden amongst shrubs and other flowering perennials. If you enjoy a themed garden they also suit the Mediterranean or urban garden.

How often should I water Nerines?

It’s important to keep watering them through the main growing season, especially if they are in a dry spot, once a week should be plenty. Stop when the foliage starts to naturally die back which is usually late September.

Do I need to deadhead my Nerines?

Not necessarily unless you want to grow the plant. The best approach is to leave it until the end of the season and then deadhead. This encourages all the energy and nutrients to return to the bulb ready for the next season. 

Make sure you also let the stems die off fully before cutting them back, any remaining yellow foliage can be cut off in the spring as the process may take a while.

Do Nerines suffer from diseases or pests?

They are quite lucky plants but there are a few to look out for:

The Mealy Bug – they are white in appearance and can’t fly so they sit on the leaves and stems sucking the sap! This can weaken the plant if left so it’s best to treat it as soon as possible. The good news is that they are quite slow to move so should be easy to spot and squash.

Viruses and diseases usually manifest by creating leaves that look streaky. It is best to remove this bulb as it can spread to others close by.

Slugs and Snails, of course, love a Nerine because they seem to love most things. With slugs and snails, it’s often best to go for prevention rather than cure if you can. 

Why are my Nerines not flowering?

Once established they should flower well, they don’t like to have their roots disturbed so try not to move them unless you have to as this could impact flowering. They may also benefit from feeding occasionally too. 

If you find they suddenly stop flowering, then it might be time to divide them and move some of the bulbs to a new spot.

To end our A Focus on Nerines, here are a few quick questions gardeners often ask:

What time of year do Nerines flower?

Through summer and into autumn.

Are Nerines poisonous to dogs?

No, there have not been any reported cases so they should be fine.

Do bees like Nerines?

Yes, they produce nectar and pollen and so are also liked by other pollinating insects.

What colour are Nerines? 

You can find them in shades of pink, bright whites, and rich reds.

Can you use them as cut flowers?

Yes, they are perfect and can make stunning addition to your home.

We hope you’ve found our blog useful but if you have any further questions why not drop us a message here

Other plant focus blogs that you may find useful include:

Garden Jobs September

How to get the Best out of Shaded Areas

A Focus on Echinacea