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Crinodendron - Growing Guide
These evergreen shrubs or small trees originate from Chile. C. hookerianum is a common and much admired plant in many UK gardens. C. patagua is much more tender and difficult to grow and is therefore seen far less frequently.
This all disguises one of the problems with growing this plant which can lead to failures if not properly understood. You often see multi stemmed clumps of C. hookerianum which have been growing away happily for decades. However getting young plants established can be frustrating as they seem to be growing well one day but wilt and collapse the next. In part they can be as temperamental as embothriums to get going. This is for much the same reasons. C. hookerianum hate having their roots waterlogged and they hate the application of granular fertiliser even more which encourages more new growth than the plant can sustain. Do not make these mistakes! We have made them ourselves in the nursery before now!
C. hookerianum grows as a multi stemmed shrub or small tree of 10-15ft in height. It can grow much taller but seldom does in UK gardens. At Caerhays it is grown as a hedge or avenue in partial shade. The flower buds develop in the autumn and can readily be seen over winter. The rich crimson lantern or urn shaped fleshy flowers are grooved and toothed at the bottom. The individual red ‘lanterns’ are an inch or more long and hang down singly on a stiff stalk.
The flowers appear in April or May and may well go on into June. They are quite a spectacle. We normally have a few large branches on our Chelsea stands.
Crinodendron enjoy a cool, moist peaty soil or loam. They will grow well in full sun but are most commonly seen in partial shade. Cold winds can cause some browning or scorching of the leaves over winter so wind protection is advisable but not essential. C. hookerianum can and has withstood at least -10°C of frost with us without harm except perhaps to young plants.
C. hookerianum ‘Ada Hoffman’ has delightful pink lantern flowers but is perhaps even more temperamental to get going.
We have grown C. patagua with its rather longer fragrant bell shaped greenish yellow to white flowers up to around 15ft after a run of dry summers. It was struck hard by a late frost and needed severe pruning to get it to revive and produce new growth. This species will tolerate drier conditions and needs full sun to ripen the wood and new growth. Full shelter from strong winds is essential but you may come to the view that this plant is best kept in the greenhouse. It does however have rather prickly new shoots.
Crinodendrons seldom set seeds with us at Burncoose if the squirrels take a fancy to the flowers as they usually do. They are however easily grown from greenwood cuttings taken in early summer.