Lilies for potting

Pot and house plants are becoming increasingly popular; as well as decorating gardens and house interiors, they are to be seen in ever-1ncreasing numbers in parks, outside public buildings and in hotels, banks and schools. Containers made from natural or artificial stone, clay, or plastic are readily available in a wide choice of sizes, colour and shape. Potted plants are convenient: they are easily moved and are therefore always available where most needed at any particular time; they are also quickly and easily replanted once the plants have ceased to flower.

Colourful, scented lilies are excellent subjects for potting, and highly suitable for room decoration. Choice of the correct variety is important: it must flower freely, not grow too tall – unless extra-large pots can be used – and take as little time as possible between planting and flowering. Jan de Graaff recommends his Rainbow, Mideentury and Golden Chalice hybrids for potting, also his gold-yellow Harmony, orange-red Enchantment, lemon-yellow Destiny and dark-red Paprika. Fire King, so aptly described by its name, is another recommended variety. All these lilies have large, saucer-shaped flowers and provide a glorious focal point in any room. Containers planted with only one variety remain at their best for 14 days, although careful selection of two or three varieties for potting-up together can extend this period to four or six weeks. L. loiigiflorwn, the Easter Lily, is exceptionally useful as an indoor pot plant, its long, greenish-white trumpets showing up to perfection against the background of its glossy, dark-green leaves.

The new Auratum hybrids are difficult to surpass for an exotic display, although they are still somewhat expensive. Even a single bulb planted in an all-purpose container can add beauty and grace to garden, terrace, or living-room.

Larger containers are of course needed for the taller-growing Aurelian hybrids and trumpet lilies; a truly beautiful contrast is obtained if the white trumpets are undcrplanted with red-flowering Pelargonium or salvias.

Lilies should be potted up during the autumn. First make sure that the pot has an adequate drainage hole, and cover it with one or two pieces of charcoal or broken crocks. To permit room for root development, plant bulbs 2-4 inches deep in a mixture of one-third garden soil or leaf mould, one-third sand, and one-third peat, adding one handful of bone-meal to the mixture. The pots are then stored in a eoldframe and protected cither with a covering of leaves, or with peat, boards or glass. Leave them in the frame until the weather turns warmer, when they should be moved into a warm room with a temperature of 50-59 DEG F (10-15 DEG C). The appearance of the first shoots provides the signal for a further move, this time into the best available light and a room temperature of 54-61 DEG F (12-16 deg C); possession of a greenhouse or glazed veranda is, of course, an advantage, but it is by no means imperative. The time of planting and the variety chosen determine the flowering period. L. longijlorum flowers later than the Rainbow or Mideentury hybrids, which are at their best around the end of April to early May. Regular watering, with an addition of liquid fertilizer every 10-14 days is, of course, necessary; excessive watering is harmful. To help the bulbs to ripen, restrict watering to a minimum as soon as the flowers are past their best. The bulbs can be left in their pots for flowering another year, but the topsoil is best renewed. The process is then repeated, and pots are subjected to the same treatment as already described. Alternatively, bulbs which have just finished flowering can be planted out in the garden and used for potting-up again a year later.

If lilies are to be planted in pots too big for convenient winter storage, or in containers, they can equally well be started off in seed-boxes or smaller pots for transplanting, once they have formed good root balls; transplanting will cause no harm, provided the roots are treated with care. This method is also used to combine the late-flowering trumpet lilies in the same large pot with the less tall and earlier-flowering Asiatics – an attractive combination capable of prolonging the flowering period from four to six weeks.

Potted lilies certainly repay the effort required; not only are they decorative and useful as house plants, but they provide a foretaste of those yet to flower in the garden!

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