HOW TO GROW LILIES

There are some four hundred species, or so-called species, of the Lily family and I always feel that there are many more types and kinds than that. Naturally some lilies are very delicate and are therefore only suitable for the greenhouse. Many of them grow well among shrubs, particularly rhododendrons. Others prefer the wild garden, for instance, L. superbum, while the smaller types like L. tenuifolium look very attractive in the rock garden. Lilies grow in all types of soils, providing they are well drained. The American species like a peaty soil. L. tigrinum, L. candidum, L. croceum, and L. elegans like a heavier soil. Those with rather damp soil will have to concentrate on L. superbum and L. canadense, but even these do not like sitting in stagnant water. Soils which contain a fair amount of natural chalk or limestone are only suited to certain lilies like the Martagon lilies and the candidums.

All lilies like shelter and most of them seem to do quite well in partial shade. Don’t plant them too close to the shrubs or the roots will take away all the moisture. Dig plenty of sedge peat or compost into the ground where lilies are to be planted and when specimens are to be grown, dig out a hole 450 mm (18 in) deep and a similar width and length. Bury a few brickbats in the bottom and then mix up a compost consisting of 1 part soil, 1 part sedge peat and 1 part sand, and put into the hole. Bonemeal should be added at the same time, 140 to 175 g/m2 (4 to 5 oz per sq yd).

It must be remembered that lilies will remain in position for years and so careful preparation takes time but is worth it. Most lily bulbs are imported and usually arrive in time for the autumn planting. Plant as soon as you receive the bulbs. This will mean November for the dormant ones and March for those that have to be brought on in frame. The depth of the planting differs according to the size of the bulbs, but a general guide is to plant them so that they are about three times as deep as their greatest diameter. Place a little sand below the bulb at planting time, so as to make certain of draining away any surplus moisture and so prevent the bulb from rotting.

Bulbs of the non-stem-rooting kinds may remain dormant a whole season after planting and will not begin to show until the second summer. This holds good whether planting is done in the autumn or spring. The stem-rooting kinds usually bloom the first summer. The small growing kinds like L. tenuifolium may be planted as close as 150 mm (6 in) but the taller varieties should be at least 300 mm (1 ft) apart.

Mulch in the summer by putting on top dressings of damped sedge peat to a depth of 50 mm (2 in). Stake the taller ones with a bamboo if they become too top heavy. Feed in the summer with liquid manure, giving three applications at fortnightly intervals as the lilies come into bloom.

There are so many varieties to choose from that it is impossible to do more than mention a few. The outside lilies can be divided into three groups, the Early Flowering, Mid Season and Late. In the Early Group I can recommend Martagon the deep purple, Golden Gleam the apricot yellow, and the Madonna lily. In the Mid Season Group I should hke to have Regale, Sulphurgale and Superbum a reddish orange. In the Late Group there is that vigorous grower The Tiger Lily, L. auratum, the white with the gold band through each petal, and L. henryi with rich orange yellow flowers. L. auratum needs planting 300 mm (1 ft) deep.

For fuller details of the different varieties see a good bulb catalogue.

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