By Darryl Pierce
Everything you need to know about lovely lilies!
Lilies are a wonderful cut flower. They last for a long time in a vase with their large often scented flowers. Lilies are easy to grow and provide a great display of colour from November through to February, depending on the variety.
Asiatic Lilies flower in November and December. The flowers are 100mm across and come in many bright colours. They are mainly non-scented, easy to grow and do well in containers. Asiatics are free flowering and grow to 80cm high. They have a wide range of colours and are among the brightest of the lilies.
Trumpet lilies flower at Christmas time. The flowers are 100mm across and 150mm long. Christmas lilies, as they are known, have a medium scent, grow to between one and one-and-a-half metres tall so need staking to protect the plants from strong winds. They are a real favourite. The main Christmas lilies available are regale and longiflorum.
L.A. Hybrid Lilies
L.A. hybrids flower in December. The flowers are huge being 150mm across and slightly perfumed. The plants grow to about one metre in height. These lilies are easy to grow and come in a wide range of popular colours.
Oriental lilies flower from January through to March, have a large flower that is 200mm across and are usually very highly perfumed. Oriental lilies grow to between one and two metres in height depending on the variety. They are some of the best lilies to suit all occasions as they range across the colour spectrum from bright colours through to soft pastel shades.
Lilies should be planted, about 100mm deep in a well-drained soil in full sun or part shade. They can be planted from May until September. As the bulbs are actively growing all year round they can’t be lifted like other bulbs and stored. This is why they are sold either wrapped in sawdust or growing in containers. Lilies should be planted soon after purchase. The best time to divide lilies is in the autumn or early winter. But unless you are giving bulbs to friends or are moving them around the garden leave lilies alone for best results. They seem to get better each year if left undisturbed. Plant the taller lilies at the back of the garden where they have more room to develop and form large clumps. Apply blood and bone fertilizer at planting time and use a slow release fertilizer, such as Bulb Food, in late winter or early spring.
When planting lilies in containers use a good bulb potting mix such as Tui Bulb Mix. It is important to keep lilies well watered through the growing season. When picking the flowers leave one third of the leaves on each stem to ensure the bulbs keep growing and that they survive for the next season. The only problems they seem to get are botrytis, black spot and aphids. All of these can be controlled with a rose spray.
After flowering leave the stems on the bulbs until the leaves go brown then cut the stems off at the top of the bulbs. Leave bulbs in the same area for four to five years. This helps the bulbs grow larger and will encourage them to produce bulblets which will also flower.
When replanting dig the bulb up in winter, split and replant immediately. Don’t store the bulbs dry as they will die.
If you want to impress family and friends, try growing a lily. You’ll be amazed how easy it is. There is a wide range of colours available and they make a wonderful show in a vase.