how to plant, grow & care for nerines
complete growing guide
A welcome burst of colour at the end of the year, nerines will bulk up in the garden or in pots to provide a long-lasting display. Their flowers come up ‘naked’ in the autumn, followed by long strap like leaves in the spring before the whole plant may go dormant in the summer. They take a little while to settle, so might not flower in their first year, but if they like their conditions they can remain undisturbed for years to come.
- Common name Bowden Lily
- Latin name Nerine bowdenii
- Type Hardy perennial bulb
- Height 50cm
- TLC rating Moderate
- Aspect Full sun, sheltered
- Planting position Front/middle of border, in containers
- Suitable for pots Yes
- Good for pollinators Yes
- Good for cut flowers Yes
how to grow nerines
where to grow nerines
Soil type: Well drained, fertile, neutral, sandy or chalky soil.
Aspect & position: Full sun and sheltered, they are very at home at the foot of a south facing wall as long as they get some moisture. They are also good in pots.
when to plant nerines
If the soil is warm enough you can put them straight into the garden where you want them to flower. If not, plant your bulbs as soon as they arrive in the spring.
how to plant nerines
potting up nerine bulbs
Plant each bulb into a 9cm pot filled with a mixture of 50% multipurpose compost and 50% loam based potting compost, such as John Innes No 2. When planting, make sure that the roots are spread out and only the bottom two thirds of the bulbs are below the compost level. The top half of the bulb must remain above it. Wait until the roots fill the pot before planting out into the garden or a permanent container, at the same level.
planting nerines in the garden
Nerines do best in a well-drained site with full sun and love it at the base of a sunny, south-facing wall. A good summer baking encourages plenty of flowers in autumn. Plant the bulbs shallowly two-thirds below soil level 10-15cm apart. Water them in well. Don’t plant them where they will be overshadowed by other plants, they like the sun on their necks and they don’t like to be subjected to other plants’ watering regimes, particularly in summer.
planting nerines in pots and containers
Nerines do well in pots permanently. Use a mix of peat free multi-purpose and loam-based compost, planting so the top of the bulbs shows above the compost surface. Bring them inside when in flower for brilliant and long-lasting houseplants, moving them outside again when they’ve gone over.
how to care for nerines
Nerines hate disturbance, so once planted try to avoid moving them. After planting, the bulbs should grow some strap shaped leaves until mid-summer, and then they will die down in hot years. If we have a wet summer, they may remain green. In September/October flower spikes will emerge and bloom with or without the foliage. Avoid planting next to narcissus (daffodils).
If there are no blooms in the first autumn, don’t worry. Nerines are notoriously temperamental when they have been moved or replanted. They will flower the following year.
After many years, the bulbs will become congested. Do not divide them as they flower much better when grown like this. If the clumps have become very large and flowering is diminishing, then the clumps can be divided and replanted in spring.
In cold areas, mulch clumps when they’ve finished flowering for winter protection. If you think the flowers are getting less, year on year, feed in summer with a potash-rich fertiliser.
- Pot up new bulbs when they arrive.
- Plant in the garden or permanent container once roots have filled pots.
- Water your nerines while they get established.
- Enjoy flowers outside or harvest as cut flowers.
- Move flowering pots indoors to enjoy your nerines as a houseplant.
- Mulch roots in cooler areas.
pests, diseases & common issues
Luckily, nerines do not suffer from many pests and diseases, but there are a couple to look out for.
nerine mealy bug
These insects have a white floury appearance, a bit like a dusty woodlouse. They cannot fly but sit on the stems and leaves and suck the sap, weakening the plant if the infestation is allowed to build up. They can also exude honeydew, causing sooty mould. Being slow movers they are easy to find and squash.
nerine viruses & diseases
If the leaves start to look streaky this can be as a result of virus or disease which can be spread from other bulbs in the same family (e.g. narcissi). Often the plant recovers, but it is probably best to remove any affected bulbs in case the problem spreads to its neighbours.
slugs & snails
Make sure to guard against slugs and snails as they are very fond of the emerging foliage
frequently asked questions
when is the best time to plant nerines?
Plant the dry bulbs in the spring or early summer. If bought as flowering plants in pots in the autumn they are best left, protected, in their pots until the following spring.
do nerines flower in their first year?
Quite often not (see below).
why are my nerines not flowering?
Nerines take a little while to settle, so they are unlikely to flower in their first year. If they still don’t flower in subsequent years you might have planted them too deeply. You should plant them no more than two-thirds the depth of the bulb. If you have planted them too deeply, try to scrape back some of the soil rather than risk disturbing them again. Once they are established and flowering well, they should continue for many years, an occasional high potash feed should help keep them that way.
do nerines spread?
Like most bulbs they will create offsets or bulbils, so that the clump will bulk up gradually over time. It is not warm enough here for them to set seed.
what to do if nerines look congested?
As long as they are still flowering leave well alone. If they stop flowering, then it might be time to divide the clump and move some of the bulbs to a new spot.
are nerines poisonous to dogs?
There have been no reports of dogs being poisoned by nerines.