Planting Lily bulbs

Earliest possible planting is best. To obtain effective distribution and correct spacing, bulbs should first be spaced on the soil surface, with those of a similar kind grouped together. The space between individual bulbs depends on the size of the particular bulb and the height the variety is likely to reach. Small bulbs need only 4-8 inches between them, but the larger bulbs, producing the taller lilies, need to be 8-20 inches apart. Considerations of an individual variety’s preference for damp or dry, acid or alkaline soils, and shade or sunlight must not be forgotten when siting the bulbs. Many lilies, notably the yellow Aurelian and pink Centifolium hybrids, are inclined to fade in strong sunlight, and prefer positions where they receive only a few hours of sunshine each day.

Bulb size governs planting depth, although bulbs tolerate shallower levels in heavy soils than in light. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at a depth equivalent to three times their height; I.e., a bulb 2 inches high is planted at a depth of 6 inches. L. candidum and Cardiocrinutn giganteiim are the two exceptions – the first likes not more than one finger-width of soil above it, while the top of the second should be clear of the soil. As L. candidum produces a crop of leaves during the first autumn, it requires early planting, at the end of August or during the beginning of September. Lilies like to have their roots spread out, and the size of the planting hole must always be big enough for this purpose.

To avoid the threat of fusarium, always place a trowclful of sand, previously mixed with the required amount of a good proprietary fungicide (Tcrraclor, Ferbam, or Brassicol, for instance) in each planting hole; then place the bulb on this base, spread out the roots, and cover with yet another trowelful of the fungicide-fortified sand.

Additional fungicide treatment, usually only worthwhile when a large number of bulbs are dealt with, is easily carried out by soaking bulbs for a few minutes in water in which fungicide has previously been dissolved. The bulbs are then air-dried for a few minutes and planted in the normal way, but still with a fungicide-sand mixture.

Finally, the bulbs are covered with the soil previously dug out, well firmed down, and labelled. It is wrong to rely on memory, as exact planting positions and names of varieties are often forgotten by the time the following spring arrives. If labels are to last and retain their legi- bility, they must be made of strong material and be of good size and quality; for lettering, special weatherproof ink is obtainable.

A protective cover of straw, leaves, or wood shavings placed over the planted bulbs guards against possible frost damage and encourages new root formation.

If late delivery of bulbs or early frost prevent planting, bulbs can be safely stored until the following spring in polythene bags filled with moist peat kept at a temperature of 32-43 deg F (0-6 deg C). S. L. Emsweller’s experience suggests that the best way of keeping bulbs is to pack them in sphagnum moss and store them at 32 deg F (0 deg C).

The transplanting of lilies

Satisfactorily established lilies, even if in flower, can be transplanted at any time, always provided that they are lifted without causing root damage and that they can be immediately planted in their new position. Autumn is the best time for transplanting, and September and October should ideally be aimed at; the earlier transplanting can take place, the better for the lily. Any damaged bulb scales should be removed before planting, and the bulb dusted with a fungicide (Arasan, Ferbam, Tersan, Spergon) or dipped in a fungicide solution. As before, the base of the planting hole should be lined with a small quantity of sand on which the bulb is placed; then follows another trowelful of sand which is topped with soil and well firmed down. Lilies can also be transplanted during spring, but special care is needed not to damage roots or any of the fresh-growing shoots – if they are broken oft, there is no chance of flowers that year.

Most lilies produce stem-roots to help them to draw nourishment from the soil and to feed the bulb; they must therefore always be covered with soil and be transplanted to a depth which permits this. To encourage the growth of stem-roots and also to allow them to fulfil their function it is important that even the uppermost layers of soil should be enriched with plant nutrients. The effort will be repaid by thick growth, and an abundance of flowers.

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