Best Advice for Growing Lilies – Lilium
In recent years our gardens have been enriched by the introduction of a great many hybrid lilies mostly introduced from the United States of America. These modern lilies are of two types – either they are propagated vegetatively from an original single bulb, by means of scales, division or bulbils, or they are what is called a seed strain, the plants being raised from seed obtained by planned hybridisation between two selected lilies.
A group of plants raised vegetatively by the first-mentioned method is called a ‘clone’ and each plant is identical in every way to the others in the group. As it takes some time to raise these lily clones, they tend to be quite expensive, particularly if the lily in question is a new one.
With the seed strains there are bound to be variations. The colour, for example, in one particular strain may range through shades of yellow, gold and orange and if several plants of the same strain are planted there will be differences between them, but this should not worry the home gardener. A great advantage ofis that the plants are not affected by weakening virus diseases and thus have every chance, given the right growing conditions, to develop strongly and vigorously. Also, lower costs of production than with clones means that some of the best strains can be bought for quite a small outlay – and you can have an impressive collection of lilies.
Before we consider these hybrids in more detail, though, let us consider the kind of conditions needed for growing lilies of the garden lily variety.
Cultivation of Lilies
One of the first things you must understand when beginning to take an interest in lilies and growing lilies, is that they include a proportion which are lime-haters and if this is a significant factor it is something to take into first consideration when deciding which to grow.
Some lilies are what is known as stem-rooting, i.e. they form roots on the lower part of the stem as well as basally from the bulb. This means that they have to be planted deeper than the others – 8 to 9 in. as opposed to 5 to 6 in. for the others. L. candidum is a special case for this should only be covered with 1/2 in. of, and another is Cardiocrinum giganteum, formerly Lilium giganteum.
All lilies like a well worked, not too heavy, soil which must be very well drained. They need, too, what is called a cool root run, in other words the lower part of the stem should be shaded by other plants to protect the roots from strong sunshine. Planting among rather open-habited, low-growing shrubs or herbaceous plants proves very successful and, carefully placed so that the sun strikes through to them, they are magnificent plants for light woodland.
If the soil in which you are growing lilies needs to be improved, you should be careful not to dig in manure where it can come into contact with the bulbs. Put it well down in the second spit where it will not cause any trouble. Bulb rotting is a worry with lilies and it is usual when planting to place each bulb on a bed of sand for this very reason.
October and November are good planting months for growing lilies, but the best advice of all is to plant them as soon as they become available, for the bulbs deteriorate if left out of the ground for longer than is necessary. Lighten heavy soil by digging in peat, leafmould and coarse sand. Once planted, leave lilies undisturbed for as long as possible and mulch each spring with peat or leafmould if this is available. When deterioration in the planting is noticeable divide the clumps of bulbs and replant in October or November.