With their huge, exotic and heavily perfumed blossoms Oriental and Asiatic lilies are one of the most popular flower choices for both northern and southern climes.
They are easy to grow, very hardy, don’t need stakes for support and will live happily in various kinds of soil, provided that the soil is well drained.
These lilies grow best when they get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, though one species, called Martagon hybrids, blooms well in shadier environments. They prefer temperate, moist summers.
You can plant lily bulbs in the spring or in the fall. If you plant in the fall, from mid-September through mid-October is best. You can also add hardy lilies planted in containers to your garden at any time from early April to late October.
If you buy your lily bulbs locally instead of ordering them, make certain to choose firm, plump bulbs with roots attached and plant them as soon as possible after purchase. Plant mail order bulbs as soon as they arrive. Just don’t allow them to dry out before planting.
For best visual effect, plant lilies in groups of three or five identical bulbs because planting bulbs singly will make flowerbeds appear sparse. Space bulbs 8-12 inches apart and keep your planting groups 3-5 feet apart.
Small lily bulbs should be planted two to four inches deep and large ones four to six inches deep, measuring the depth from the top of the bulb. You will need to divide and replant large clusters of bulbs about every three years, when they are not blooming as well as they first did.
Before winter arrives, mulch newly planted bulbs with four to six inches of loose, weed-free compost, leaves, or wood chips. This will retard soil freezing and allow roots to continue growing.
Established plants don’t need mulch if snow cover is dependable, but applying mulch is a good safeguard. Leave all mulch in place until all danger of frost is past to protect tender new shoots from damage. If shoots begin growing through the mulch, remove it gradually and store for use the following fall.
Apply a high-quality slow release phosphorus-rich fertilizer in the spring and protect buds from aphids with water sprayed from your garden hose. Water lilies in the morning rather than the evening to avoid fungus; if you must water in the evening, place water at the plant base rather than watering from overhead.
Remove flowers as they fade and wilt, but don’t remove stems or foliage, which will return energy into the bulb as long as they remain green. Remove old foliage in late fall or early spring by cutting down the dead stalks.
Lilies really aren’t all that much work to grow, and they provide weeks of scented delight!