Lily flowers are valued for their large, very showy, often fragrant flowers. The six plain or strikingly marked tepals (“petals”) are often trumpet-shaped, sitting atop tall, erect stems.
These hearty bulbs are easy to grow and require minimal care, provided that you plant them in the right place.
At home in both formal and naturalistic settings, most lilies also take readily to containers. Plus, they make wonderful cut flowers, coming in pink, gold, red, orange, and white colors.
Lilies bloom tend to bloom from early summer, depending on the type. By carefully blending early, mid-season, and late varieties into your garden, you will enjoy their magnificent blooms from spring through frost.
- Plant lily bulbs in spring or autumn. Select a site with soil that drains well.
- For dependable blooms, lilies need six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. If it’s too shady, the stems will attempt to lean towards the sun or get spindly and fall over.
- Most of the popular varieties prefer acidic to neutral soil, but some are lime-tolerant or prefer alkaline soils.
- Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. The deep planting encourages the developing stem to send out roots to help stabilize the plant and perhaps eliminate the need for staking. Also, deep planting keeps lily bulbs cool when temperatures soar.
- Dig a hole 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulbs are high and set the bulb in the hole pointy side up. Fill the hole with soil and tamp gently.
- Space bulbs at a distance equal to three times the bulb’s diameter (usually about 8 to 18 inches apart, depending on the variety).
- For a good effect, plant lilies in groups of 3 to 5 bulbs.
- Water thoroughly.
- During active growth, water freely—especially if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
- Apply a organic fertilizer every 2 weeks from early spring until 6 weeks after flowering.
- Lilies do not bloom more than once per season, but you can remove the faded flowers so that the plants don’t waste energy making seeds.
- Leave the foliage until it turns brown in the fall. It’s important not to cut back foliage until the end of the season because the plant needs to store energy for next year’s flowering. Cut down the dead stalks in the late fall or early spring.
- Gray mold is sometimes a problem, especially in a wet, cool spring or summer. Make sure lilies are not crowded and have plenty of air circulation.
- Viruses, spread by aphids, may be troublesome, although some cultivars are virus-tolerant.
- Red lily beetles, slugs, and snails may occur.
DISPLAYING LILIES IN VASES
- Lilies make wonderful cut flowers. However, avoid cutting off more than a third of the stem, which can reduce the plant’s vigor and longevity. Or, if you are growing lilies strictly for cut flowers, consider planting them in a designated cutting garden, where you can plant fresh bulbs each year.
- When cutting lilies, choose those with buds that are just about to open, with a bit of the flower color showing—leave those that are still tight and green.
- As soon as you get lilies inside, trim the stem ends an inch or so, making a diagonal cut with a sharp knife.
- If you worry that the orange pollen of lilies might cause stains, simply snip off the stamens in the flower’s center.
- Before arranging in a vase, remove the lower leaves on the stems so that no foliage will be underwater.
- A good lily arrangement will last two or more weeks. Change the water every few days.
- To help prolong the flowers’ life, add cut-flower food to the water. Lilies require only half the amount of food recommended for other flowers.
The name “lily” can be misleading because lots of other plants use it besides true lilies. Daylilies and water lilies aren’t lilies at all.
If you have a flower bed, lilies prosper in the presence of other low plants that protect their roots from drying out.