Growing Lilies

Garden LiliesOne of the most beautiful summer-flowering plants, home gardeners are growing lilies (lilium) for their exquisite trumpet-shaped blooms. Stems are strong, upright and unbranched, 1-6 feet tall. Flowers are large, beautifully colored in both bold and pastel shades, and often fragrant. May be grown individually in formal or naturalistic settings or en mass. Small species make excellent container plants, and all are a perfect addition to any border. Blooms from late spring through early autumn, depending on species.

Site Preparation:

Plants thrive in full sun or partial shade and prefer moist, well-drained soil and excellent air circulation. Most lilies perform poorly in extreme heat.

How to Plant:

A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs with their bottoms resting at a depth three times the diameter of the bulb. For best results, plant most lilies 6-9 inches deep and space approximately 8 inches apart. Lilies never go completely dormant, so never allow them to dry out completely. Even tiny lily plants should have no less than 6 inches of soil above the top of the bulb. Avoid fertilizers containing excessive nitrogen. Fish emulsion is the perfect fertilizer for lilies. Keep the soil mulched with several inches of compost or shredded bark to keep the soil cool. Move or divide lilies only when overcrowded and bloom production stops. Transplanting should be done in very late fall. The bulbs are very delicate and should be handled gently. Plant them immediately to prevent the bulbs from drying out. Discard any damaged or diseased bulbs.

Tip: Combine with baby’s breath, hostas, asters, and other bushy perennials that will hide the bases of the lily stems.

Insects and Disease:

Common insect problems associated with lilies include aphids and bulb mites. The later are tiny whitish mites, which feed in groups and produce stunted, yellowed, or deformed leaves and flowers. Infested bulbs have corky, brown spots that become powdery. Watch closely and apply diatomaceous earth or other natural pest controls if necessary.

Lily is also susceptible to fungal diseases, such as rust and gray mold. Avoid overhead watering whenever possible and apply copper or sulfur sprays to prevent further infection.

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