Crinum foetidum and water

Joe Shaw
Sat, 12 Aug 2006 10:38:30 PDT
I think it would be a mistake to water well all species of Crinum. The 
amount they need depends on the species. Crinum foetidum, as an example, I 
found growing at Victoria Falls, in very very dry soil which was also very 
compacted, being in a path from the station to the village.

Hi Gang,

That sure sounds like one tough plant, compacted and shallow soil, and not 
much water.

I can't comment directly on C. foetidum, but generally speaking, many plants 
have 2 or 3 life phases.  Thus, as seeds and seedlings they need conditions 
that they may not encounter often as adults.

As a general rule, succulent plants (including bulbs from arid areas) need 
gentle conditions during the period when they are establishing.  In the 
American West, for certain cacti, such periods might be 2 or 3 wet years in 
succession, with mild winters as well.  Some seem to require such conditions 
and then 2 or 3 dry years (to kill competitors like grasses), followed by 
another few wet years in order to really get established.

However, once established cacti can go 2-3 years without rain, and much 
longer with just a bit of rain.  Such plants may not flower, or they may 
flower and set seed poorly, but they are alive and ready to produce when a 
good year comes along.

Many bulbs of dry lands can often be found in situations that are quite wet 
sometimes, clay pans and local areas of water runoff.  Of course, in really 
dry areas, the wet condition is not obvious most of the time and may not 
occur some years.  Bulbs are a storage device, storing food and water, or 
perhaps rare trace elements.  How much of which and in what proportions will 
depend upon the bulb type and growing conditions.  Cacti (or succulent leaf 
plants) similarly are storage devices, but they have evolved different 
storage organs.

Many cacti don't mind water, per se, if they have good drainage.  In fact, 
they often achieve unnatural (and sometimes ugly) growth if they have too 
much water, such as here in my garden.  This area may receive 40-60 inches 
of rain per year; in contrast some species I grow come from areas with 5-25 
inches of rain per year.  Also, precipitation is pretty much a year round 
thing here, whereas desert areas may go 5 months or 10 months between rains.

I think that many bulbs will tolerate water even if they don't require it, 
but prolonged soggy soil can lead to many problems.  Therefore, bulbs from 
dry areas will obviously benefit from excellent drainage if they are getting 
too much water.  They may even benefit from other provisions such as more 
perlite and stones (and less humus) so that less water is held in soil after 
gravity removes what it can.

Even if a lot of care is taken with cacti, they can suffer from root rot 
when grown where rains occur year-round.  I combat this by doing several 
things:  1)  I never water mature plants (they get too much water as it is), 
2) I plant them in nearly pure scoria, sand, and perlite, with only a trace 
of humus, and 3) I apply lawn fungicides to surface of the cactus pots (just 
as I would apply to a lawn, but more heavily).  I like myclobutanil because 
it has low toxicity for me, because it breaks down soon enough, and because 
it is a systemic fungicide.

Back to bulbs:  bulbs from very arid places may utilize more water than we 
can suppose.  However, extra irrigation can result in a garden "look" as 
opposed to a wild look.  Also, bulbs from arid areas can be predicted to 
require not-so-horrible conditions during their seedling stage.

Bulbs may require a drought-induced dormancy to bloom.  So, extra water in 
summer may be fine but it may not be helpful for blooming.  I have looked 
but can find no literature out there (help me gang) where it has been 
determined if C. foetidum requires a drought, or cold, or something else to 
bloom.   I'm under the impression that C. foetidum plants will bloom in 
South African gardens where conditions are not as it might find in the wild.

Finally, it needs to be mentioned, that lessons extrapolated from other 
succulents do not necessarily apply to Crinum (or other bulb plants).  I 
guess we all make our way in the garden or greenhouse, improvising as we go.



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