Planting And Care Of Lilies

Though lilies look like they'd be fussy plants, they are actually very easy to grow. They're not particular about soil type or pH and they grow well in full sun, part sun, dappled shade and even light shade.

Lilies are best grown in full sun or with only light shade. The main requirement for lilies is a well-drained soil; in a soggy soil the bulbs are likely to rot. They should never be planted where water collects during rainy periods. If drainage is poor, raised beds may be helpful. Lilies will succeed in most soils, but grow best in a loose, well-drained, sandy loam. Add sand and compost to a clay soil and compost to a sandy one. Plant the bulbs as soon as possible on arrival, weather permitting, either in the fall or spring. Because the bulbs lack the papery covering (known as a "tunic") that is common to other hardy bulbs, they can dry out quickly in storage. If this is not possible keep the bulbs in a cool place eg: the vegetable crisper in your refrigerator.

More than most other bulbs, lilies demand well-drained soil. Dig the spot where you plan to plant lilies to a depth of at least 12 inches, remove rocks and add organic matter, such as leaf mold or peat moss to improve both the soil's structure and drainage. Like other bulbs, lilies appreciate a little bone meal scratched in at the bottom of the planting hole, but do not really require other fertilizers at planting time. Instead, wait until the bulbs send up green leaves and then sprinkle a complete organic fertilizer around the plant and water it in.

Spread an organic mulch around lilies to help keep the soil moist and cool; use compost, well-rotted manure, or a longer-lasting mulch, such as bark mulch, wood chips or cocoa shells. As with other perennials, it's a good idea to cover the bed over the winter with straw and/or evergreen boughs to help protect the bulbs from freeze-thaw cycles. When the ground begins to freeze, cover the planting with a mulch of non-packing material (straw or a mixture of leaves and twigs). This will lessen frost-thaw movements while the roots are forming during the first winter.

During the flowering season, remove spent blooms, but try not to cut off more than a third of the stem, which can reduce the plant's vigor and longevity. If you are growing lilies strictly for indoor arrangements, consider planting them in a designated cutting garden, where you can plant fresh bulbs each year. We leave our bulbs in the ground and only lift them to move them to a different area, or to separate newer growth from the old bulb.

During early spring cultivation, be careful not to damage the emerging lily shoots. Any that are broken will not regenerate that year; the bulb will decrease in size because of the loss of the year's growth and will produce a smaller plant the following year. When rapid growth begins, sprinkle a tablespoon of fertilizer such as 6-24-24, 5-10-10, 3 to 6 inches around each plant. Cultivate this in lightly, being careful not to damage the stem roots just below the ground surface or let nature water it in.

During late spring, watch for aphids about the growing part of the plants and on the new leaves. If present, spray with an insecticide containing nicotine or rotenone. A spraying of Wilson's Ornamental Tree & Shrub Insecticide will also help combat the lily beetle. This is a systemic treatment that the plant takes in to its cells. Later in the summer, especially during warm moist weather, a fungus disease, botrytis, may show up as brown spots on the leaves. These can spread to cause the premature browning and loss of the leaves. This disease does little harm to the bulbs other than the loss of part of the season's growth. Cutting down and burning the dead tops each fall best controls botrytis.

Division and replanting can begin as soon as the top growth dies down and continued until the ground freezes. Cultivate the soil thoroughly. Place the bulbs at least 6 inches apart to form a clump of one variety, and leave 12 - 18 inches between varieties and between lilies and other plants. Put the base of the bulb about 3 times the bulb height beneath the soil surface. For most mature lily bulbs, this will be about 6 inches. Make a mound of soil in the center of the hole and spread the roots out on its slopes. Mark the location of each bulb so that the emerging shoot will not be harmed during early spring cultivation.

Especially if well-spaced when first planted, lilies need be divided only every 4 - 5 years, or when flowering begins to decline due to the crowding of the bulbs. To delay overcrowding, the small bulbs which form on the stem above the main bulb can be dug out in the fall and planted in rows to increase in size before being returned to the garden.

Some of the information contained in this page comes from Lilies In The Valley.

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