Nerines put on a wonderful display of lily-like flowers in late autumn, in shades of pink and red, against strappy foliage. They work well in borders and containers and make great cut flowers, too.
Most nerines are tender and need to be grown in a greenhouse, but Nerine bowdenii is hardy in warmer regions of the UK.
How to grow nerines
Nerines grow from bulbs. Plant them in autumn in poor, free-draining soil in full sun, ideally with the added protection of a south-or west-facing wall. Cut back after flowering and tidy up foliage as plants start to die down for winter. Tender types will need bringing indoors in autumn, but Nerine bowdenii is hardy in southerly regions. Cover with a thick layer of mulch, instead.
More on growing nerines:
Where to plant nerines
True to their South African origins, nerines require a dry, sunny location to thrive and are happy in poor soil. Many are tender greenhouse bulbs, but Nerine bowdenii is hardy in warmer areas of the UK. For best results grow outdoors in well-drained soil in full sun, ideally sheltered by a south-or west-facing wall. They will not flower in shaded situations, and rich soils will encourage leaves rather than flowers. Nerines are also suitable for growing in containers.
How to plant nerines
Plant Nerine bowdenii bulbs in autumn. Prepare the soil by adding plenty of grit for drainage and plant bulbs just below the surface, 7-10cm apart. Mulch for the first winter until established and expect to wait a year or so for the bulbs to flower prolifically. They also grow very well in pots.
Nerines can also be grown from seed. Sow seeds thinly in a tray of seed compost and grit and cover lightly with compost. The seeds need heat to germinate, 10-13°C. Water and keep warm. After a year, the small new bulbs can be potted on into individual pots and will take about 3-5 years to flower.
How to care for nerines
Cut back spent flowers and tidy up foliage as it starts to die back in winter. Move tender varieties indoors in autumn or add a thick layer of mulch to Nerine bowdenii varieties.
How to propagate nerines
Nerines tend to form large clumps over time and these need to be divided periodically to encourage good flowering. This is also the best way to propagate them. The best time to do this is in spring and early summer – simply dig up a clump, divide and replant smaller clumps separately.
Nerines can also be grown from seed. Collect seed after flowering and sow as soon as it’s ripe.
Growing nerines: problem solving
Nerine undulata (Flexuosa Group) are prone to weather and slug damage as flowers appear in early winter. After replanting, you may not see nerine flowers for a year. This is completely normal – they’ll flower the following year after they’ve settled.
Five nerines to grow
- Nerine bowdenii ‘Patricia’ – with pretty pale pink blooms on sturdy stems, it looks great in a late summer border or indoors as a cut flower
- Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’ – crisp, pure-white, star-shaped blooms appear on sturdy stems. It makes a fantastic addition to the late summer border, or an excellent cut flower
- Nerine bowdenii ‘Fenwicks Variety’ – the sturdy stem bear clusters of up to 12 pink blooms in autumn
- Nerine bowdenii ‘Kathleen Pollock’ – is one of the cultivars with striking red flowers. It works well in a mixed herbaceous border and makes an excellent cut flower
- Nerine undulata – is a species with delicate pinkish-purple flowers that appear even later than bowdenii varieties in November-December. It requires the same dry, sunny growing conditions, but due to late flowering, it’ll need protection over winter in colder regions