Greenhouse Cultivation Of Lilies

Most of the hardy lilies are suitable for cold-house cultivation in large-size pots. Here they will find a ready sale with florists for church decoration and wreath-making, and they will be equally useful in the home in pots or as cut bloom. In the cold-house during early summer, they will give of their charm and fragrance. The best varieties and those most profitable for cutting are L. longiflorum, L. speciosum and L. elegans, in fact L. longiflorum is grown on a large scale as the Easter Lily. While L. speciosum grows equally well in the open as indoors, L. longiflorum, is better suited to warm-house treatment. L. regale and L. tigrinum, both so easily grown outdoors, crop to perfection if given cold-house treatment. The blooms remain spotlessly clean and in a fresh condition for some considerable time. Grown three or four bulbs to a large pot, they are ideal subjects for a hall or porch.

PLANTINGGreenhouse Cultivation Of Lilies

Large pots are necessary for not only are most lilies tall-growing, but being stem-rooted, ample space must be allowed for top dressing as growth progresses, and rather than plant one bulb to each pot, it is better to use a large pot and to plant three or four bulbs in each. Low planting and constant top dressing is the secret of success with L. longiflorum. Correct drainage and a moisture holding compost go hand-in-hand with indoor lily culture.

The pots should be well ‘crocked’ and then din. Of compost should be placed over the crocks. This should be composed of rotted turf loam passed through a sieve, to which is added 1 part of peat and part of coarse sand. It is better not to use any manure with lilies. If the bulbs are only just covered with compost, there will be 4-5 in. to be filled up as growth is made. For Easter and early summer flowering, the bulbs will be potted in October and will stand in a cold frame until the turn of the year. The lights should be covered with sacking to keep out light and frost. In introducing all lilies to a warm greenhouse or room, this must be done gradually and no undue forcing must be done.

The temperature of the greenhouse should be just sufficient to keep out frost and the bulbs growing. L. longiflorum will stand a higher temperature when growth is almost complete and the buds are forming during early March, when it may be increased to 60 F. I have never found L. regale or L. speciosum at all satisfactory when forced – let them take their time. Both in fact are better suited to a cold greenhouse, L. regale being potted in early March and allowed to stand in a frame or under the greenhouse bench until the roots have formed. They will bloom during June and throughout summer if taken indoors in batches. Likewise, may the flowering period of L. longiflorum be spread over the spring and early summer months. L. speciosum will come into bloom during late August and from later pottings may be had in bloom up to Christmas. The slower-growing L. candidum should be potted in late August and taken to a cold-house in early March and like L. regale they will come into bloom early in summer.

After flowering the bulbs should be slowly dried off, bearing in mind that more bulbs are spoilt through not giving them sufficient care after flowering than through any other cause. Water should be gradually withheld until the foliage has turned completely yellow. The bulbs should then be removed and placed in boxes of peat in a cool, dry room until spring, when they may then be planted in the border. A 20-cm. bulb should be used for indoor cultivation.


This calls for the greatest need for care, especially when marketing white lilies. In order to retain the spotless white condition of the petals, first remove the stamens with the greatest care so that the pollen does not smear the throat when travelling or when exposed to winds. Then give the blooms a long drink in rain-water and when boxing, pack cotton-wool carefully around each throat after covering the box with a layer of blue tissue paper to enhance the vivid whiteness of the blooms. To hold the blooms in position, place a thin strip of wood across the box just below the heads.


  • Lilium amabile. Growing to a height of only 2 ½ ft., this is a stem-rooting lily which should be planted in a gritty lime-free soil. It enjoys best a position to the front of a shrubbery. A native of Korea it bears its deep red flowers in early July.
  • L. auratum. Introduced from Japan in 1862, and though possibly the most stately lily in cultivation has a habit of not flowering after its second year in positions which do not suit it, though it is difficult to really determine the most satisfactory soil. It is not partial to lime and as it is not quite hardy and being stem-rooting, it should be planted 6-7 in. deep. Known as the golden-ray lily, the large white petals carry a distinct yellow marking down the centre. The crimson anthers complete a bloom of great beauty.
  • L. Brownii. A variety that grows well in any soil. Its large funnel-shaped blooms are purple on the outside and white within. It reaches a height of 4 ft. and is at its best in July. It is particular neither as to soil nor to position.
  • L. candidum. A lime-loving lily, the Madonna lily of southern Europe, which is only base-rooting and should be planted with the soil only just covering the bulb. Enjoys a sunny position where it should be left undisturbed. At its best during June and July.
  • L. cernumm. A dainty hale lily growing to a height of only 2 ft. and producing its lilac-pink blooms throughout June and into July. Plant 4 in. deep.
  • L. cbaleedonicum. The old scarlet martagon lily, producing its brilliant scarlet blooms during July. It enjoys a sunny position and some lime rubble in the soil.
  • L. croceum. A variety known to Elizabethan gardens for it was introduced at the turn of the sixteenth century. It produces cup-shaped flowers of vivid orange during June, growing to a height of 5 ft. in a heavy loamy soil. It will grow in an acid or heavily limed soil and should be planted 5-6 in. deep.
  • L. Davit& var. Max-will. A Canadian lily of extreme vigour and hardiness flowering in July in a sunny position and in a soil containing plenty of grit. The flowers are of a brilliant orange-red and of great substance.
  • L. Davidii var. Willmottiae. At its best during early August, its vivid orange-red blooms being carried on 4-ft. Stems. It does best in partial shade and in a soil containing plenty of peat or leaf mould.
  • L. elegans. Also known as L. Thunbergianum. It is dwarf of habit and may be obtained in a number of forms ranging in colour from orange to deep mahogany. At its best in July.
  • L. Hansonii. Loves partial shade and a gritty soil and is July flowering, the orange, spotted brown flowers carrying a delicious fragrance. Since receiving an Award from the Royal Horticultural Society way back in 1878, it has remained a most dependable lily.
  • L. Henryi. August flowering, growing to a height of 8 – 10 ft. and enjoying a position of partial shade and plenty of moisture to its roots. It is extremely hardy and does well in a lime soil.
  • L. martagon. The old Turk’s Cap Lily, which will grow well in any soil and in any position. It is base-rooting and enjoys some lime rubble in the soil. The quaint drooping rose-pink flowers are spotted with purple and black. The White Turk’s Cap Lily, martagon album, is one of the most charming of all lilies.
  • L. pardalinum. The Panther Lily of California, flowering in August. The petals of the flowers are attractively turned back, the colour being vivid orange-red, yellow at the base. Base-rooting, it enjoys a moist, peaty, lime-free soil.
  • L. pbildauricum. Bears its rich apricot blooms in clusters on sturdy stems 2 ft. tall. Requiring a lime-free soil, it is a lovely lily for massing at the front of a border.
  • L. pomponium. Flowers profusely in a limy soil, but loves a stiff loam with some lime rubble worked in. Its blooms possess rather an unpleasant perfume, but his is compensated by their brilliant drooping scarlet form. Base-rooting, it should receive shallow planting.
  • L. pyrenaicum. The old yellow Turk’s Cap Lily and so useful in that it comes into bloom late in May. It is base-rooting, requiring shallow planting. The lovely lemon-green coloured wax-like blooms are carried on 3-ft. Stems. Likes a shady position.
  • L. pumilum. A lily suitable for the rockery or a window-box as it grows only 15 in. tall and produces its vivid scarlet blooms in profusion during June. Enjoys a position of full sun.
  • L. regale. The most popular of all lilies and rightly so, for it is not particular about soil, is free-flowering and carries a rich perfume. It is stem-rooting and requires planting 8 in. deep. Its white blooms of great substance look most attractive planted in the shrubbery.
  • L. Roetlii. A valuable lily in that it blooms to perfection planted near water, in the bog garden or on the banks of streams or ponds, where the brilliant orange-red blooms remain long in flower.
  • L. speciosum. Formally called L. lancifolium, and one of the loveliest of all lilies. It should be planted in clumps, preferably by itself where it will bloom in profusion year after year. It carries a pleasing perfume and is lovely planted in large tubs near a house or in a small courtyard. It is stem-rooting and requires planting 6 in. deep. In the border it should be planted near the tiger lily for both bloom during August and September.
  • L. superbum. A lover of a moist, leafy, lime-free soil, this lily grows to a height of 8 ft. bearing many crimson flowers, spotted mahogany.
  • L. tigrinum. A very old easily grown lily which enjoys a rich soil and a position of full sun. The bulbs are stem-rooting and like deep planting. September flowering.
  • L. tenuifolium. From Siberia, and bears its brilliant scarlet blooms late in May in a peaty, lime-free soil and in a position of partial shade. Suitable for the front of a border.
  • L. umbellatum. Another dwarf-growing lily, base-rooting and June flowering. It is one of the easiest of all for the beginner’s collection and blooms to perfection beneath tall trees and shrubs. Perhaps the best variety is Golden Fleece, with its attractive golden blooms, tipped with scarlet.


Botrytis. Occasionally lilies are affected by this disease, first observed by the formation of brown spots on the leaves, which gradually turn grey and spread out to affect the whole of the leaves and later the stem. It is most frequently observed in ground deficient of lime, but as a number of lilies are not lime lovers, the trouble is more often observed amongst these species. Spraying the plants with Bordeaux Mixture during the first four weeks of growth, which will be during the month of May, may keep the trouble under control. As the trouble is also most often found on plants growing in a cool, shady position, transplanting the bulbs to a sunny border after flowering, as at the end of autumn if they do not flower, may prevent the trouble appearing again.

Millipedes. These creatures may occasionally be found attacking the roots of a lily causing the plant to become stunted or the foliage to turn yellow before flowering. A heavy watering of the ground round the bulb with common salt will kill the pests if they are not too deeply down as they will be when attacking the deeply planted stem-rooted lilies.

Slugs. These pests are occasionally troublesome, with lilies planted in a border and particularly if the weather is unduly wet, when they will attack the young green shoots. A proprietary brand of slug bait will prevent any serious attacks, but a sharp lookout should be kept with the new season’s shoots.

For what it is worth, I pass on the tip of a famous old west-country gardener, who advised lifting any affected bulbs and shaking them up with a quantity of flowers of sulphur before replanting in spring. Indeed, he never planted any lilies without first giving them a dusting with sulphur and his lilies were certainly the talk of the village inns for miles around.

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