- Planting Asiatic Lilies: Information About The Asiatic Lily
- How to Grow Asiatic Lilies
- Planting Asiatic Lilies
- Asiatic Lily Plant Care
- What to do when lilies have finished flowering
- Asiatic Lily ‘Tiny Bee’
- IN THE GARDEN: Growing and Care of Asiatic Lilies
- Asiatic lilies: 10 Golden tips to take care of them
- Growing Lilies in Pots
Planting Asiatic Lilies: Information About The Asiatic Lily
Everyone loves lilies. Planting Asiatic lilies (Lilium asiatica) in the landscape provides the earliest lily bloom. Asiatic lily care is simple once you’ve learned how to grow Asiatic lilies. The secret to beautiful, long-lasting blooms is learning the right way to plant Asiatic lilies. You’ll be rewarded with colorful and bountiful blooms on this prized perennial.
How to Grow Asiatic Lilies
Scout for a location and prepare the soil ahead of time when planting Asiatic lilies. Information about the Asiatic lily advises planting in a sunny to partly sunny location. At least six hours of sunlight is necessary for the Asiatic lily plant.
Soil should be well-draining, which may require the addition of organic material worked in several inches deep. If you already have rich, organic soil in the area where you’ll be planting Asiatic lilies, make sure it is loose and well-draining to 6 to 8 inches deep.
Bulbs of this lily should never sit in soggy soil.
Work up sandy or clay soil by adding organic, well-composted materials. Peat moss, sand or straw mixed into the beds before planting Asiatic lilies improves drainage. Soil should drain well but hold moisture to nourish the growing lilies. Information about the Asiatic lily says they prefer soil to be slightly acidic as well.
Planting Asiatic Lilies
Plant these bulbs in fall, a few weeks before the winter brings freezing temperatures. This allows a good root system to develop. Bulbs of the Asiatic lily must have the winter chill to produce big blooms.
Plant the bulbs three times as deep as the height of the bulb, with the flat end down, then mulch lightly to retain moisture. In spring, plant short annuals around the lily bulbs to shade them. Place in a location away from browsing deer; Asiatic bulbs are edible and deer will do just that if given a chance.
Asiatic Lily Plant Care
Fertilize your plantings for optimum bloom. If you have followed the steps above, the organic matter in the soil gives your plants a good start. You can top dress with slow release fertilizer as well, or feed in early spring with fish emulsion, worm castings, compost tea or a nitrogen plant food.
When buds appear on the Asiatic lily, feed with a high phosphorus food, or bone meal, to make blooms bigger and last longer. Fertilize in limited amounts, as too much fertilizer, even the organic types, can create lush green foliage and limit blooms. Proper care of your Asiatic lily bulbs goes a long way in creating a beautiful display.
What to do when lilies have finished flowering
If you own or are considering getting some lilies you must have wondered what to do when lilies have finished flowering. After flowering, lilies should be deadheaded, pruned, cut back, and mulched to help the plant prepare for the following season.
Lily bulbs grow in a continuous cycle throughout the year and how you treat the plant after flowering determines how the following season will turn out. Lilies are a popular group of flowers because of the beautiful and sometimes fragrant blooms. There are different types of lilies including Oriental, Trumpet, Asiatic, and Daylilies.
Deadheading is what to do when lilies have finished flowering. The care for lilies after flowering begins with deadheading. Spent flowers should be removed regularly. Lily blooms can be cut off and used as cut flowers for decoration and making floral displays either alone or with other flowers. The blooms that were not cut off wither and become unattractive hanging on the stems.
Each of the spent flowers should be picked as it withers which can be easily done by hand. The flowers can be broken off using just fingers or cut off using a pair of shears. Lilies don’t flower more than once per season, so removing the spent flowers hardily promotes flowering. However, the faded and withered flowers should be removed to make the plant doesn’t waste its energy making seeds. If the lily flowers are pollinated, they shrivel, fade, and make way for seed pods.
If you plan on using the same bulbs the following season, you don’t want the seeding to occur. This is because the seed pods will consume the plant’s energy which could have been stored as carbohydrates in the bulb. Deadheaded lilies show better growth the following season.
The second reason why you should deadhead lilies is that it cleans up the appearance of the plant and the pot or garden in general. Let’s face it a flower with faded, withered, and dead flowers can be an eyesore.
It is good to note that you should not take off any leaves during deadheading because the plant still needs them to make energy.
- Asian Tree Lilies
- Asiastic Lilies
Pruning is also one of the things that should be done after the lilies have finished flowering. You should be careful not to prune lilies prematurely because it can significantly diminish next year’s growth and flowers. Some people prefer not to deadhead the spent flowers and wait to take them away together with the withered leaves.
After flowering, the foliage begins to fade, yellow, and die. Although it’s tempting to cut the leaves off immediately, resist the urge. The leaves are the main source of energy for the next growing season and should therefore not be cut too early.
The leaves should be cut in late fall when they have turned brown and died down. Once a stem has finished blooming and the flowers and leaves have died back, it can be pruned. Use lightweight shears for pruning lilies (they look like large scissors). The shears are useful for making gentle cuts on the delicate lily stems. This is the same kind of shears that are used when picking cut flowers.
Follow the stalk all the way down and make the cut at the base. It is advisable to disinfect your shears in between the cuts. It helps prevent spreading diseases from infected dead and diseased plant parts to healthy plant parts. Disinfecting can be done by dipping the shears in a solution of 2 parts water and 1-part vinegar.
Cutting Back Lilies
Stalks that turn yellow or brown before fall should not be a concern. They will not affect the overall health of the lilies. In fact, they contribute to the success of the coming season by providing energy as already mentioned earlier. After the first frost, the lilies no longer needed the energy being produced by the foliage stalks.
Cut the stalks back all the way down to the ground using shears. Stems with brown leaves should be cut and removed without leaving stubs.
It is also good to note that some people sometimes prefer not to cut back stalks that are just yellow and not brow. The idea is that they might forget where the lily bulbs are buried if they cut all the stalks all the way to the ground. There is also the risk that they might destroy them by digging them up or injuring them with a digging tool without knowing. Therefore, some people cut back during early spring when the new growth begins to emerge.
After cutting back lilies in the fall, it is advisable to apply some mulch. The mulch should be about 4-6 inches spread all across the lily bed. It helps insulate the soil from the winter temperature fluctuations and delay ground freezing. The mulch protects the roots when the bulbs are dormant. Leave the mulch in place until the spring and when the hard frost has passed.
Remember to remove the mulch gradually in the spring as the new shoots begin to emerge.
Dividing lilies should be done only after every three or four years. Although dividing is not among the common practices of what to do when lilies have finished flowering, it is good to know in advance. In practice, some varieties can even last longer without requiring dividing. As a lily owner, you should consider dividing your lilies when you notice them experiencing poor growth and fewer flowers.
To divide the lilies, dig the entire plant up and gently separate the clumps into groups. Each of the groups should have about three clumps. Replant the new bulb groups preferably at the same depth as the original plant.
I hope you found the article useful and now you know what to do when lilies have finished flowering. Whether you are growing your lilies to enjoy them cut and displayed in vases or out in pots and gardens, what you do after they bloom determines how well they grow the next season. Also, don’t forget to look out for new colors of lilies or varieties that you can add to your collection in between seasons.
Asiatic Lily ‘Tiny Bee’
1 – Asiatic hybrids
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
12-15 in. (30-38 cm)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
Sun to Partial Shade
Late Spring/Early Summer
6″ to 12″ (151 mm to 300 mm)
Unknown – Tell us
Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)
Unknown – Tell us
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
By dividing the bulb’s scales
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed
Flowers are good for cutting
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Where to Grow:
Can be grown as an annual
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Royal Oak, Michigan
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Pink lily sprouts just beginning to emerge on a sunny day.
Time & Type Matter A complete fertilizer, such as Vegetable 5-10-10 or a complete Rose food formula, is first applied when the sprouts begin to emerge, and again just as the flowers are opening. Choose a brand where the first number (nitrogen) is lower because with a high nitrogen content lily bulbs will grow nice leaves but not good flowers – and growing too fast from high nitrogen fertilizers weakens the bulb’s overall health. (All candy and no protein – so to speak – check the chemical breakdown before you purchase any product.)
Generally, the least expensive place to buy products is in 50 pound bulk size bags at farm stores. Do not be alarmed with such a large amount, but simply line a 5 gallon bucket with a trash bag, pour in the fertilizer, twist the top to seal out moisture and put a lid on top. Keep in the corner of your garage or shed and you’ll have several years of fertilizer for the cost of a yearly 8 pound box.
The above photo shows sawdust shavings that are packed with our lily bulbs for cushioning and to regulate moisture. Simply empty the bag over the newly planted bulbs as simple mulch and when you stand back, it is easy to see where they are planted. This system of marking sleeping lily bulbs is handy to avoid stepping on a newly emerging stem in spring. The mulch was pulled away so you can see the white granules of dry fertilizer sprinkled on the soil. Wait until most of your lilies have emerged and are 1 to 6 inches tall before spreading fertilizer so that you do not accidentally miss a group.
Organic Gardening Organic formulas are more expensive and the official analysis might not look as “effective”, but many organic formulas also include Trace Minerals which will increase disease resistance and help take up nutrients more effectively. They are especially worth their cost in small gardens where you have limited space for both food crops and flowers and need to practice careful and precise crop rotation for the vegetable garden to grow well. Time release formulas can be a bit chancy, especially in areas with cooler summers because most of them need to have a certain soil temperature to release well and lily bulbs do best with specific fertilizing.
How much to use for lilies? One tablespoon of a complete balanced fertilizer for each large stem is plenty for soils with a clay base; you want to target the lilies while they are growing fast in spring making a stem. Fertilize again in midsummer when the flowers are beginning to open and the bulb has exhausted its stored food and needs to build itself back up before winter. Areas of high rainfall or sandy soil may require an additional feeding about two weeks later.
Resist the urge to use more fertilizer in the hopes of faster growth or to “correct” perceived weak growth or odd leaf coloration. You can also use a “manure tea” or kelp (seaweed) sprayed onto the still-green leaves late in the summer, however be mindful of wind; Dianna accidentally sprayed the large living room window with Fish emulsion many years ago and spent the next morning with a razor blade scraper taking all the little brown spots off the glass.
Case in point One of our sons made cookies for Boy Scouts when he was seven years old. Reading the recipe, but not the sizes on the ring of measuring spoons, he put in a Tablespoon of Baking Soda instead of only a Teaspoon – the cookies tasted very good – but you can imagine the gastric repercussions emitting from the family that evening. (Just like baking soda, too much fertilizer is not a good thing.)
If your leaves are turning yellow (and dropping) from the ground up is the classic symptom of having too much moisture surrounding the bulb and adding more fertilizer will burn the already stressed roots. Brown speckles on leaves or buds are usually Botrytis (fungus), and no amount of fertilizer will help – only a good fungicide. If in doubt, please send us a photo by email, with your soil type, mulch and local weather conditions and we’ll be better able to help you determine what might be affecting the lilies.
Organics – about 1/4 cup per large stem of follow package.
Midsummer Top Dressing with Organics
When lily flowers are beginning to open, the bulb has exhausted itself putting up a stem, and now needs a boast of nutrients. Remember that the feeder roots are just below the soil surface so simply scratching in the fertilizer or watering it in will put the food in the best place.
Processed manure products and regular granular chemical formulas are just fine used together or alone in a given year, but if you have a rainy winter or spring much of the fertilizer will leached out, so spreading compost or manure during the summer is a better plan, plus it helps to correct any deficiencies. For manure tea, use about a half cup of fresh or aged manure in a quart jar of warm water, stir and let set for an hour, then spray. You want the manure to dissolve as much as possible.
Handfuls of alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) around the stems will help with nitrogen – but is not recommended should you be plagued with wild bunnies. However, if they are eating the alfalfa pellets, maybe they’ll leave the stems alone? (Just joking, don’t try it unless you are braver than me.) Greensand (a sandstone rock product) and a light dusting of fresh grass clippings will make a difference, dried grass clippings can be deeper, but you lose some of the benefits. Grass clippings from recent “weed and feed” applications are not recommended however.
Many years ago a customer put up an expensive cement block fence to keep deer and running dogs out of the flower beds surrounding his home, but the deer would simply walk up the paved driveway, so he installed an automatic gate for the cars. It worked perfectly – so he happily planted new lily bulbs, roses and peonies in the spring, carefully amending the soil with compost and other “good stuff”. Sometime later he called to say he had a problem. What happened? The raccoons were climbing the trees, dropping down onto the cement block fence, scooting down a shed roof, sniffing out the Blood and Bone Meal and digging up all his plants.
Avoid using blood meal or bone meal if you have raccoons or enthusiastic dogs because they will tend to dig your bulbs if they smell anything interesting underground – one of the main reasons to avoid any type of meat scraps in your compost pile.
If you miss spreading fertilizer completely and it is late in the summer, don’t worry; wait until next year. Keep in mind that chemical fertilizer granules are not as effective if spread or dug into the soil in the fall. This is because winter rainfall will tend to wash away nutrients before your lily bulbs are ready to use the food. Do a simple application of compost or well-rotted manure around the stems and the stem roots next spring will be able to access the nutrients.
IN THE GARDEN: Growing and Care of Asiatic Lilies
The Lilies are blooming and they are gorgeous! Asiatic hybrids, (Lilium) are hardy Zones 3-10, and easy to grow. Native to Asia, mature plants can reach 1-6 feet and have long glossy leaves. These beauties come in many bold colors. Unlike Oriental Lilies, they have no fragrance. These plants are low maintenance, a perennial, and suffer from few diseases. A definite must have for the Alaskan gardener.
Lilies like full sun, but I have mine in partial shade and they are doing fine. Raised beds and deeply dug soil with rich organic matter of leaves and loam and sand with a little gravel mixed in helps to promote the drainage that lilies need. Lilies like a soil ph of about 5.5-6.5, so don’t add lime. I use matured steer manure around my plants, about 1 inch and I give them a drink of Epsom salts, 1 Tablespoon in a gallon of warm water in the spring and they seem to be thriving and multiplying. You can also use 8-30-15 water soluble fertilizer a couple of times during the growing season to promote a strong bloom.
Grown from bulbs, lilies will rot if too wet. You will want to spread your lilies out when planted as they need space to multiply. Plant your lilies approximately four inches deep for Alaska. Compost, bulb food or bone meal can be added to the soil when first planting.
You can also divide the bulbs and move them around to grow more in different areas of your garden. If you are lucky, your gardening friends will thin out their lilies and this is a good time to pick some up. I never pass on lilies.
Asiatic Lilies grow well in containers. You want a medium to large pot for your lilies that has good drainage. Mix two parts potting mix and one part sand. Place rocks in the bottom of the pot. Lilies are heavy feeders and benefit from a monthly water-soluble potassium rich fertilizer during the growing season. Lilies can grow in your pots for several seasons. To winter over in Alaska, cut the stalks back to the soil line at the end of the season and put in the garage on a cool floor and stop watering them. Lilies need a cold period in order to grow beautiful blooms. Don’t bring your potted lilies in the house as this will prevent them from blooming next year.
Lilies are perfect in a cut flower arrangement and last a long time. Lilies are a favorite to be used in flower shows because they will last and look good for at least the three days of an average show. Florists will use a lily many times as the focal point of a floral design. Pollen stains on your clothes and hands from handling lilies can be problematic. The oil from your hands can set the stains. Some flower shows allow for the removal of the stamen which keeps your exhibit looking fresher longer. A soft dry small paint brush or pipe cleaner will easily remove the pollen off the flower petals.
Here are a few varieties that are Zone 3-4 Alaska hardy:
*Lilium ‘Tiny Sensation’ (Asiatic), Yellow
*Lilium ‘Arcachon’, (L.A.Hybrid Lily), White
*Lilium ‘Frangio’ (L.A. Hybrid Lily), Plum
*Lilium ‘Tiny Ghost’ (Asiatic Lily), Burgundy
*Lilium ‘Tiny Orange sensation’ (Asiatic Lily), Deep Mango orange
Staking may be necessary for the taller varieties. Plan ahead and put a round tomato cage around the plant early and allow the lily to grow into the cage. A tall stake and twine also works well. For taller plants, wind can be problematic so plan ahead. I take all my cages and stakes out for winter to clean and store them.
After the bloom is gone, let the stalk die back naturally, which helps to strengthen the bulb for next year.
I hope that you will give Asiatic Lilies a try in your garden. You will be rewarded with an impressive array of amazing blooms in midsummer just after your spring flowers have faded and a new performance is required.
What varieties of Lilies are you able to grow? I would love to hear from you at,.
Remember, we must, “Keep calm and Garden on”
Tour the great gardens
of Greater Eagle River
Join us on Saturday July 22, 2017 for the first annual Greater Eagle River Garden Club garden tour. The tour begins at noon until 4 p.m. and features an array of beautiful gardens. You will see rock gardens, English country style gardens done in perennials, vegetable gardens, private backyard retreats, greenhouses and special trees and bushes not usually grown here.
There will be signs to designate the gardens on the tour. Please consider the following garden tour etiquette when visiting:
Think safety! Park safely on the road and do not block driveways of neighbors. Children must be under parent/guardian control and the use of strollers would not be appropriate. Respect the homeowners and do not pick anything. Stay on the designated paths unless otherwise advised. Enjoy yourself, ask questions and thank the homeowners for sharing.
Garden tour locations:
17118 Santa Maria Drive, Eagle River
17342 Baronoff Ave., Eagle River
17216 Alice Loop, Eagle River
19712 Belduque Court, Chugiak
17538 Santa Maria Drive, Eagle River
19655 Belduque Court, Chugiak
12012 Sweetwater Circle, Eagle River
23746 Goliath Drive, Chugiak
Asiatic lilies: 10 Golden tips to take care of them
By peter / 5 years ago
Lilium Candidum derives its name from the Greek word leiron. Commonly this beautiful flower is known as the Lily. Lilies can be grouped into five basic categories which are Asiatic Lilies, Oriental lilies, Trumpet lilies, Tiger lilies and Turks cap lilies. Most people believe that lilies bring good luck and prosperity and therefore are abundantly used in wedding and formal occasions in a family. A popular myth surrounding the lily is that the lily was once yellow in color. Only after Virgin Mary selected it that it became pure white in color and was recognized as a symbol of life and fertility. Later on both the Romans and the Spaniards believed and used the medicinal properties of these lilies.
Simple golden rules to understand when growing these lilies
1. The best time to plant these lilies is during the fall in the months of September and October.
2. When planting lily bulbs you would need to group them. A regular group could contain three to five lily bulbs. Remember to evenly space out your lily bulbs when you are planting them in the ground. Otherwise they will not grow well.
3. When planting lily bulbs use an area in your garden which receive abundant sunshine. This would help the lily to grow tall and your lilies would be beautiful too.
4. Your garden should have a good water drainage system if you are planning to plant water lilies. Otherwise water logging would cause your lily to rot and all your effort would go in waste.
5. An essential tip which would help your lily survive the winters is covering them with compost. This would help the ground enjoy steady temperatures.
6. You can also mulch the bulbs and the mulch can be removed once they start growing.
7. When using a fertilizer to grow your lilies, you can select one which has rich phosphorus content in them. You can fertilize your garden soil during the spring and again during the fall season.
8. These lilies do not need much watering and they can be conveniently watered once a week and the soil should be able to hold the moisture well.
9. When growing lilies you have to prune them on a regular basis and do not leave a dead lily flower in its plant for a long time. This would help the plant to be healthy and prevent any production of seed.
10. Also remove dead lily petals from the flower. Otherwise your lily would suffer from Botrytis Blight.
In the end it can be added that you would require loads of patience when you first start growing these lovely lilies. With time you would be able to understand their needs and grow a few of them in your garden. This hard work of your would not go in waste, as everyday your beautiful lilies would greet you in the morning and calm your senses.
Asiatic Lilies Bouquet How To Grow Asiatic Lilies Caring for Asiatic Lilies
Growing Lilies in Pots
Why grow lilies in pots when they are so easy to grow in the ground? For those of us who desire to grow less than hardy varieties, container growing may be the only solution as less hardy varieties will not survive a winter in the ground. Short-stemmed or dwarf lilies are an excellent choice for container gardening and help to beautify your surroundings and landscape. There are also many gardeners who prefer pot culture as they find them more convenient to care for. What ever your reason may be, here you will find the information you need to grow them successfully.
When we were open to the public visiting the lily gardens, we grew and sold thousands of potted lilies for people to take home over a number of years. We were proud to grow the healthiest potted lilies you would find anywhere, grown in the great outdoors under natural conditions and during the same typical growing season as our lilies in the ground. We started potting lilies in late March and continued to the first week of May. The information that follows is the exact procedure used during our years in the greenhouse & nursery business as well as when we decided to specialize in lilies. Of course, the methods were fine-tuned over the years.
After potting, they are watered until it is coming out the drainage holes of the pot, then slow release fertilizer is added on top the soil. Trays are moved to the unheated shop where they sit for a minimum of 2 weeks to root – keeping them on the cold side encourages them to develop healthy, extensive root systems before they send out shoots, just as they do in the ground. They are not watered at all during this period, and they don’t require it because they are kept cool, in the dark and don’t dry out. By this time most of them are just beginning to poke through the soil, and it’s time to move them outdoors into some sunshine. Out they go, often going through a frost or two before really starting to grow in May. Once sprouted, we only protect them from freezing if temperatures threaten to go below -5 celcius.
Knowing when to water the lilies takes experience and attention to detail at this stage – typically they are watered only when the soil is visibly dry, about every 3 days from May to the end of June. Windy days can mean watering every day, or rain can mean no watering for days on end! Dwarf varieties are ready to bloom by the middle or end of June, the rest are approaching 3 feet in height and watering is now needed on a daily basis, depending on the winds and temperatures.
After flowering, the inflorescence is cut off so the plant spends its energy building a bigger bulb rather then producing seed. We let up on the watering, gradually letting them dry out now until we discontinue watering at the end of August so the stems can mature and dry off. Any bulbs I wish to keep over winter remain in the pots, which go back into the unheated shop with a couple mothballs in the pot to keep the mice away. Of course, the dead stems are pulled off before placing them in storage. Sound simple doesn’t it? It really is, and I encourage you to try it yourself especially if you want to grow those fragrant, less than hardy beauties year after year!
Things to consider before planting:
- Length of time they will remain in pots
- Stem height at maturity
- Container size and suitability
- Your available time to care for them
- Number of bulbs to plant per pot
Large pots, the bigger the better is my motto! The larger the soil volume in the pot, the less chance there is of baking or freezing the bulbs within. This is especially important if the pots are black or dark colored, and they sit in full sun all day.
Orientals, orienpets, trumpets and asiatics that grow taller than 24 inches require a sturdy pot that will not tip over easily as the stems grow to mature height and become top-heavy with flowers. Typically, we put one oriental or orienpet bulb per one gallon nursery pot. The size of one gallon is misleading when it comes to nursery pots because at first glance it is easy to see that it would really only hold about a half gallon – don’t ask me why the nursery trade sizes or labels things this way! The actual dimensions of the pot are what counts in the end, and the one gallon pot is usually 6 inches in diameter and 8 to 10 inches in depth. When planting 3 bulbs to one pot, we prefer to plant in a container with an 8 to 12 inch diameter, with at least the same depth as the one gallon pot. You may wish to place rocks at the bottom of the pot prior to adding soil or bulbs, in order to add weight so it won’t tip easily in wind. MAKE SURE there are drainage holes at the bottom of the pot no matter what size, color or shape it is – drainage is the most important element with lilies! Don’t settle for a layer of rock or gravel as drainage without holes, use pots with holes! Many a gardener has told me about how they thought they’d spend less time watering by using pots without drainage holes, or how they didn’t like the water running out the bottom onto their deck, so they blocked the holes – only to find the plants rotting away a week or so after some steady rain filled the pots and they didn’t notice until it was too late. This is more apt to happen with planters full of annuals since you can’t see the soil surface once they fill out, but the same can happen with lilies. All the water may be sitting at the bottom 3 inches of the pot (exactly where the roots and bulb are) and you won’t know it because you can’t see it.
Another key consideration when choosing pots is the depth, all lily bulbs need at least 4 inches of soil over top the bulb to grow well and an inch of soil at the bottom. Add an inch to the top for watering purposes and that means you should not plant in anything shallower than 6 inches. Be aware that the smallest bulbs need these minimums, bigger bulbs need more soil over the top, closer to 6 inches if the stems are to remain sturdy at maturity.
Soil and Potting Mixes
Lilies LOVE sandy soil, no question about it and my observations and experiments with different mixes over the years proves it. In every case, when sand dominates the potting mix, bulbs develop very healthy, thick roots in abundance. Bulbs increase in size quite dramatically in sand, in contrast to using a basic potting mix without sand. Basic potting mixes tend to encourage bulb and root rot because of the high peat content, and I also notice the bulbs seem to decrease in size rather than increase – especially when overwatered. Because sand makes up the majority of the mix and holds no nutrients, fertilizing becomes more important.
Recommended potting mix for lilies:
2 parts sand
1 part loam
1 part peat
The best investment you can make in ANY of your plants is in the fertilizer. The rewards of regular feeding are well worth the effort, resulting in healthier plants, bigger flowers in bigger quantity and the ability to resist pests and disease with ease. Fertilizer is especially important in the early growth stages. Compare it to building a house – you want a sturdy foundation (your plants need sturdy root systems) and you know the strongest wall is useless if the foundation can’t handle it! The first decision comes in choosing the type of fertilizer that suits you best. I prefer to use slow release pellets because it saves me time and I don’t have to remember when I last fertilized. It is applied once at the beginning of the season and that’s it. You might prefer to mix water soluble types and water with them weekly, or perhaps you are big on organic types such as fish fertilizer. Another worthy tip is to only use fertilizers mixed with water on pots that are already moist, never apply fertilizer to a dried out pot because it will surely result in leaf burn. Whatever you may prefer, just be sure to establish a routine and use it – you won’t regret it! Regrets only happen when you disregard the mixing instructions, so please read them and follow them to the letter because twice the fertilizer doesn’t mean twice the bloom – it usually means damage to the plant.
For bigger blooms and bulbs the next year, be sure to apply tomato fertilizer at least once immediatly after blooming is finished, twice would be better yet. In this case, I would suggest using a water soluble tomato fertilizer mixed at full strength according to the package directions, any vegetable fertilizer will do the trick.
What To Do After Planting
Ideally, you want to keep your potted bulbs quite cool for a couple weeks while they root. A temperature of +5 Celcius is perfect. After they poke through the soil, you still want to keep them as cool as possible, but this time in light. Keeping them cool rather than warm will ensure, strong, sturdy stalks instead of weak stems. I encourage you to place your potted lilies outdoors after potting and leave them there day and night – no need to cover or move them inside unless temperatures go below -5 Celcius. The bulb inside the pot is insulated by the soil, and if the lily sprouts in cool temperatures it can handle a few degrees of frost after sprouting without any damage. Keep them cool in natural conditions from the start!
The biggest danger to potted lilies is overwatering, I just can’t stress it enough. Lilies love plentiful moisture, but only when good drainage is also present. Waterlogged bulbs will rot quickly and easily, usually you won’t even know this is occurring until you unpot the bulb or it starts to look sickly for no apparent reason. Water when planted, then not again until dry after poking through the soil. From that point on, water only when dry.
How Long To Bloom?
Depending on the variety grown, 2-3 months from potting results in flowers. Weather makes it difficult to predict exactly when they will bloom when grown outdoors. Orientals take 2-4 weeks longer, as will most orienpets and trumpets. That’s why we start potting these varieties in March, with asiatics and LA’s to follow in late April.
After Blooming Care
Cut flower tops off to promote bulb growth, but be sure to cut no more than one-third of the stem total. Lilies gather their energy through photosynthesis, this makes it important to leave them with as much foliage as possible so they can grow and flower admirably the following year. Continue to water the pots when dry until late August then reduce watering so the stems can yellow and wither away. Yes, they will look unsightly for a time, but wait until they are quite yellow and brown before cutting the stem off at soil level. Pots can then be stored as is, without watering, in a cool spot for winter or unpotted and bulbs placed in peat or sawdust shavings in a cool place such as a cold pit or refrigerator, ready for potting the next spring.
A Note Of Caution: Quite frequently I am asked if the bulbs can remain in the pot and left outdoors for winter, and my response is always a resounding NO – not in my climate anyway. In a typical winter if a pot was left above ground, regardless of how big it was the bulbs inside would be mush by spring time. It doesn’t matter if they are zone 1 or zone 3 rated, they will be mush if left above ground. You could however, dig a hole anywhere in the ground and put the pot and all in that hole, push dirt level with it and it would be just fine the following spring with nothing more to do than pull it up, clean the outside and start caring for it just as you did the previous year.
In spring 2013 a friend was quite happy to prove me wrong. She had asked the previous fall if she could leave some in pots and I told her no. Apparently she did anyway and in May she could see sprouts coming! She let me know and I was shocked, truly. The following week I was working in the gardens here and happened to walk out behind the shop. Imagine my surprise to see crates of lilies (and not asiatics, but non-hardy Star Gazers of all things!) on the ground with sprouts nearly 6 inches tall happily growing! Behind the shop is where crated lilies grown and cut for weddings each year reside, and the previous fall it had snowed before I had a chance to clean up and trash what was left, which was nothing but bulbs in the soil as the stems were cut off. I was totally baffled by this until my husband pointed out that they were under 6 feet of snow back there – no way they would have survived otherwise! This would also be the reason why my friend’s bulbs survived in their potted homes since we had an abundance of snow in the area the winter of 2012-2013.