The genus Lilium are herbaceous flowering plants normally growing from bulbs. They comprise a genus of about 110 species in the lily family, Liliaceae. They are important as large showy flowering garden plants. They are important culturally and in literature in much of the world.
Some species are sometimes grown or harvested for the edible bulbs. The species in this genus are the true lilies. Many other plants exist with "lily" in the common English name, some of which are quite unrelated to the true lilies.
There are many kinds of lilies with some differences in requirements for growth. By selecting an assortment varieties the home gardener can have a succession lily blooms from June through September.
Plant Your Lilies : Lily bulbs may be planted in spring or in the fall, usually from mid-September through mid-October. If you find hardy lilies growing in containers, you may add them to your garden throughout the growing season. When buying locally, select firm, plump bulbs with roots attached. Plant them as soon as possible. Bulbs never go completely dormant so they must not dry out before planting. Plant mail order bulbs as soon as possible, also.
Asiatic and Oriental lilies grow best in full sunlight. In Minnesota, they need six to eight hours of direct sunlight in order to perform well. They'll grow taller, more spindly, and floppier in reduced light. Martagon hybrids, a group of turk's-cap lilies, are prized for their ability to bloom well in shadier conditions.
For best effect, plant lilies in groups of three or five identical bulbs. Space them eight to twelve inches apart, keeping groups three to five feet apart, depending on the vigor and size of the lilies. Plant small lily bulbs two to four inches deep and large bulbs four to six inches deep, measuring from the top of the bulb. Divide and replant large clusters of bulbs every three years or so - or when it seems they are not blooming as well as originally.
Never plant lilies where standing water collects after heavy rainfall. Well-drained soil is an absolute must. Add lots of organic matter to clay soil to create a raised area with improved drainage. Incorporate organic matter into light, sandy soil also, to help hold onto nutrients and prevent it from drying too rapidly.
Before winter, mulch over newly planted bulbs with four to six inches of loose, weed-free compost, leaves, or wood chips. This delays soil freezing and allows roots to continue growing longer. Mulch also insulates the soil against fluctuating temperatures, delaying the emergence of frost-tender shoots in spring.
Hardy established lily bulbs don't need winter protection where good snow cover is dependable. Considering Minnesota's weather history, however, it's always safest to apply a winter mulch. Wait until some time in November when the ground begins to freeze, before spreading it.
Soil and Site : Good drainage is essential for all lilies. If the soil is not naturally well drained, gravel should be placed in the bottom of the bed. The soil must also be granular and well supplied with plant food nutrients. Some types of lilies require a damp location. The European Lilies thrive best in alkaline soil. The American Lilies and those from Himalaya and Japan seem to prefer acid soil. Most lilies seem to succeed in full sun, although partial shade, especially at midday, preserves the colors and prolongs the flower-ing season. Lilies also want lots of air around them. They shouldn't be crowded.
Planting : The soil should be dug down to 1 foot and Fertilizer mixed and worked thoroughly into the soil. Sand, leaf mold, peat moss, or other material may be needed to adjust the soil, and should., be mixed in at this time. In most, sections of the country the Ameri-can-grown bulbs should go in the soil about mid-October. The Madonna Lily is usually planted in August or early Sep-tember. Imported bulbs which arrive too late in the fall can be planted in heavily mulched soil or potted up and kept in the cold frame. The size of bulb, type of soil, and manner of root growth are all factors in planting. A general rule is to set bulbs three times their own depth. Bulbs planted in sandy soils should be 2 inches deeper than in clay soils. Space small lilies 6 to 7 inches apart and larger ones 1 foot apart.
Summer Care : Keep soil free of weeds by shallow cultivation. Take care not to break the tender growth. A summer mulch of leaf mold or peat moss will keep weeds out, conserve moisture, and keep the root cooler. If dry weather comes in July or August, soak the planting down to 6 inches once a week. Feed Fertilizer Complete Plant Food at least once during the summer, using 1 pound for each 25 square feet of bed. Stake when necessary, being care-ful not to drive the stake through foliage. After blooming, the plants need the leaves to manufacture food reserves for storage in the bulb.
Growing from Seed : Lily seeds may be sown as soon as they are ripe. Sow seeds in cold frame and allow them to grow until bulbs are formed. Keep seedlings shaded the first year.
Container Growing : Bulbs may be planted singly in a 6" pot or in groups of 3 in a larger pot, allow for 4-6" of soil above the bulb. Use a commercial potting soil mixed with 1/3 peat and 1/3 perlite or sand to allow for good drainage. A regular application of fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 is recommended, or any even number, as well as repotting every year with fresh soil. Because lilies are never completely dormant, extra care for winter must be taken. Surround the containers with sawdust or straw or place pots in a root cellar. Bulbs should not get below freezing.
Fall Care : Do not remove or cutback the spent stalks until complete dieback has occurred in the fall or it could weaken the bulb. Fall is the best time to divide your clump of lilies. This is advised to be done every 4-5 years. Use a spading fork and carefully lift the bulbs from underneath, being careful not to damage the bulbs. Separate the larger bulbs and replant (see planting instructions above) as soon as possible into freshly amended soil. Plant the smaller bulblets 2" deep.
Diseases : Lily mosaic is a preva-lent and virulent disease. When it appears on a plant there is only one thing to do-dig up the plant and burn, thus keeping it away from healthy plants. This disease is carried by a virus and a fungi-cide will not give protection. There are several fungus diseases, such as botrytis blight that is com-monly found on lilies, which can, be controlled by regular preven-tive dusting.
Cutting Stems : When cutting a stem, leave at least one third of the stalk to feed the bulb so it can mature properly for the following year. The best time to cut is early in the morning. Place in warm water and enjoy their beauty and fragrance!
Pollen Stains : To prevent staining the pollen should be removed from the anthers of cut flowers. If staining occurs, brush access pollen off lightly and treat the stain with any stain remover or dish detergent . Launder as usual.
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