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Fall - Planting Your New Lilies!

By: Nigel B. Strohman



Now that Fall is approaching so is the MRLS Fall bulb sale. Lilies that you will picked up or order will need to be tended to right away. Lily bulbs are never completely dormant like tulips or daffodils. These are fresh and ready to go, so they must be planted as soon as possible.

If for some reason you are unable to plant your bulbs immediately, then keep them refrigerated until you can plant them. Store them in a poly bag in slightly damp peat moss in the crisper of the fridge. There is only a short time before ground freeze up. The more growing and becoming established the bulb will do before freeze up, the better it will be able to withstand the rigors of a long, cold winter.

Location:  It is important to choose the right location. Lilies require direct sunlight for part to all of the day. They also require "Well Drained Soil". A medium sandy loam soil with a reasonable amount of humus is ideal. Peat moss can also be added. Heavy soils can be lightened with course sand and peat moss. If using manure make sure it is well rotted and use as top dress only, otherwise it can cause damage to the bulbs by lowering their disease resistance.

Planting:  Most lilies should be planted to a depth of 6” and 12-16” apart. Trumpets and Orientals should be planted to a depth of 8” for extra winter protection. Place your lily bulb with its roots down and scale points up. A little bone meal may be added at this time. Cover with your soil mixture. Pack the soil in well around your bulb. Lilies make a nice show if they are planted in triangular groups of 3 per variety.

Watering:  It is important to thoroughly water your bulbs in after planting, so the soil settles around the bulb to prevent any air pockets.

Labeling:  It is wise to mark each bulb planted with a stake and a weather resistant marker, so as not to damage the lily shoots in the spring when working around your lily bulbs.

Asiatic Hybrids:  These lilies are hardy to zone 2 and very easy to grow. They come in all shades and color combinations. These hybrids multiply rapidly and bloom over a long season. The flowers can be up-facing, side-facing or down-facing, vary in height and flower mid season.

Martagon Hybrids:  These dainty flowered ones are fast becoming popular, with as many as 50 flowers on tall erect stems with whorled leaves. These lilies often take a year to settle in and are known to sulk the first growing season, sometimes not showing any presence until the next growing season. Once established in the border or garden they can be left alone for many years. They are the only lilies that prefer dappled shade.

Orientals, Trumpets and Aurelians:  These varieties are the most exotic and showy of all lilies. These varieties multiply more slowly. They can be grown on the prairies but it takes a little more effort on your part of amending the soil and providing heavier winter protection of straw, leaves and peat moss. Spring planting of these groups allows them to settle in and are more apt to make it through the winter. Protecting them from the first frosts, by covering them with a cardboard box will allow the bulbs to mature more fully for the following year. These large beautiful scented flowers that bloom late summer will be well worth the extra effort needed.

Orienpets, Longipets, L.O. Hybrids:  These lilies are breakthroughs in the lily hybridizing world giving improved hybrid vigor and large showy flower. They are proving more hardy then their parents, the Orientals, Trumpets and Longiflorums. However, these should be mulched after planting to aid in over wintering.

Species:  Species lilies require specialized care due to their different natural growing conditions through-out the world. Anyone endeavoring to grow these varieties needs to research their growing requirements. Species bulbs for the most part are smaller than hybrid varieties, but will produce good quality stems and blooms. Their delicate, beautiful flowers will be well worth the effort required.